Halloween · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · Purim

Happy Hallo-what?

If my father saw this (and he’s an American citizen), he would say, “Jackasses.”

No, I don’t celebrate Halloween anymore. (Here’s an interesting perspective I heard last year on keeping kosher and being shomer Halloween.) But ever since hearing that there is an “illegal alien” costume being sold at Target (it was since taken down) and Amazon.com, I’m having flashbacks to my last Halloween. (By the way, re: the illegal alien costume, um, illegal aliens DON’T have green cards, hence, being illegal. Duh.)

In college, I went trick-or-treating with my friend Lisa and a group of little neighborhood kids in and around Bensonhurst Brooklyn (a Russian-Chinese-Italian-everything-else neighborhood). I dressed up as Harry Potter (yeah, not your standard sexed-up Halloween character). I can’t remember what anyone else was dressed as. But I do remember that all of us had to run down a block to avoid getting egged by a group of white teenagers that yelled “Chink! Chink!” when they saw Lisa, who is Chinese, and the little kids we were with, also Chinese. I remember all of us crying.
Apparently, a lot of people like dressing up as “ethnic” characters on Halloween. (The radio show, Addicted to Race, talks about this in their latest podcast.) Is that racist? Well, I can tell you that when I visited a white Jewish couple’s house and I heard they were dressing up as a “Chinese family” (their words) for Purim, I was pretty offended.

Check out: The Jewish Halloween (MyJewishLearning.com)

6 thoughts on “Happy Hallo-what?

  1. Because this year Halloween fell on Shabbat, I'm wondering if the trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood found fewer of the observant Jews willing to go along with it and hand out candy as they usually do just to be neighborly. More than half of my neighbors are Jewish and at more than half of the Jewish families are Orthodox.

    The “village” rules are that trick-or-treating hours are supposed to be something like 3:30-7:30pm, which seems really odd to me because I grew up with the idea that you had to wait until darkness to do it. We got our first trick-or-treaters at about 3:30pm as members of my family were playing bridge with neighbors who had dropped by. Our friends who are Orthodox noted that they had not bought Halloween candy this year.

    I had allowed my kids make costumes (sometimes used again for Purim) and go trick-or-treating until age 10. (I know it's a cop out, but: “we've Conservative Jews.”) However, my kids were almost the only kids who still went to Hebrew school (class from 4:15-6:15pm) several years ago when Halloween fell on a Hebrew school evening .

    This year, I told them that they had from when they got home from school until candle-lighting on Friday to carve a pumpkin. But I warned them that they could not put in a candle or use a battery powered light in their jack-o-lanterns until after Havdalah (even though we usually do turn on/off electric lights on Shabbat).

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  2. Hi, Debbie, I grew up in Washington Heights and it was particularly dangerous when I was growing up there. Because of this, we didn't go out on Halloween (or even the Fourth of July–after someone threw a firecracker down my shirt one year, I was about 5 years old).

    If we did go out on Halloween, we went out BEFORE dark to avoid the more dangerous aspects. We went in our building and we went to stores where we weren't afraid of the candy we would be getting.

    In fact, when we really did go trick-or-treating (at any hour) was when we moved to a relatively crime-free neighborhood in the Bronx. And even then, we went only to the neighbors on our block or the Catholic church (you read that right) Halloween party.

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  3. Ah Halloween. Where it is not only mandatory for girls to dress up as “sexy ______” but also where we can dress up as people from other cultures, cultures that we don't understand and don't want to understand! But they LOOK COOL so it's okay, right? Right?? Take, for example, dressing up as a gypsy. Nevermind that the word “gypsy” is a perjorative used to describe the Romani people and therefore no different from any other racial slur or word used to describe a race/culture/ethnicity other than one's own. I dunno. Halloween could be a good educational opportunity, a way for parents to give their kids some respectful messages about cultural appropriation and what might be appropriate costume fodder vs. disrespecting someone's identity. But it seems that they miss the boat.

    There is also, apparently, a resurgence of blackface going on in some realms of entertainment I guess people are using it to be “ironic” (???) but I'd call it “ignorant.” Maybe “horrifying.” I didn't see any out and about this year, thank G-d.

    We do buy candy and hand it out, I like Halloween, but I don't dress up or see it as an excuse to go out to a party or anything. I like handing out candy to sweet kids in adorable costumes, ordering a pizza and having a Buffy marathon. It's a nice way to meet people who live in the neighborhood, from my community, way better than natural disasters or fires (which is how I met most of my neighborhood, during the Station Fire! :-PP )

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  4. Oooh, I am, like, way overdue for a Buffy marathon.

    And I just learned the term “cultural appropriation” last night after some deep reading on anti-racist blogs. It's nice to learn the terms for things that have been bugging the hell out of me for years. It gives me some sense (probably delusional) of having power over it and how I let it affect me.

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  5. Actually what you said about Halloween makes sense, as it is a Catholic holiday incorporated from the Irish, and used to move merchandise in America πŸ™‚

    I'd be curious what my Army buddy SGT Gonzalez would say about the costume. He is even more anti-PC than I am (and introduced me to Mind of Mencia), so I could imagine his reaction, and what jokes Mencia would steal to respond to it πŸ™‚

    I never thought of going ethnic for Halloween or Purim, though I took the easy approach and wore my uniform for Purim. One year I was an IRS agent for Halloween, but I doubt it would ever cross my mind about going ethnic, and the only thing about me that is PC is my computer.

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  6. I am from Bensonhurst, and most people here are Chinese or Russian.

    That aside, while I don't celebrate Halloween, I do give candy. The Rebbetzin Pam, wife of R' Avraham Pam, would give kids freshly made popcorn on halloween, and they would make brochos with Jewish trick-or-treaters.

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