By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Here comes one of those ‘Jews Attacking Christmas” stories. It is true in all its parts; only names and locations have been changed to protect the well-intentioned. In fact, in raising the issue, I have had my license threatened.
As a general rule, I stay out of the annual Christmas Wars – and for good reason. Being of a cultural and religious minority, speaking up and telling the truth, as I have learned this morning, could have career implicating consequences. By even mentioning the inappropriateness of a Christmas symbol, my career and family have been put under the gun. It is indeed dangerous for a Jew to speak up. There are times though when it has to be done and this is one of them.
This past week while in context of my employment, I found myself in a Court of Law before a Judge I admire deeply, arguing a very passionate case on behalf of a wounded client. Inside that Court room and serving as a constant distraction, was a well decorated ‘Christmas tree’. Two years ago when the tree first appeared, I made an issue of it. Then, the Judge called it a ‘Holiday Tree’ which serves mostly to hold candy canes for kids who come into his court room. I stared intently at the bowl of candy sitting to the side of the Bench. Clearly he did not need a tree to distribute his candy. I left him to maintain “face” and we went on with the Court’s business. Now, still two years later, the tree is still in place only this time, I was specifically threatened for raising the issue. That tree does not belong in a court room.
No government of the United States would ever sanction a religious holiday. When government acts, we have to assume that the “Christmas” that they celebrate is the Christmas of Santa Claus and Rudolph, of gift giving and office parties, of Mistletoe and Chestnuts. It is very unlikely that this national holiday is intended by design or operation to be a State sponsored celebration of the birth of the Christian messiah. This, I can easily accept and can tolerate even the most offensive of celebrations. The magic of the secular Christmas is more pagan in origin and gives such pleasure to an otherwise weary populace, that I am a willing participant therein.
Despite the secular Christmas holiday, there is at its core, a religious aspect to the holiday. Although Christian in its current form, the celebration of the winter solstice is pagan in origin and is now mashed together with the birth of Christ and the eight magical nights of Judaic hope and faith. Throw in a Kwanzaa and our nation has tuned the fourth quarter of every year into an excuse to party, spend, and smile. Who am I to blame them; with the miseries of a winter forthcoming, any chance to let go and be stupid is at times a good thing.
My cities and towns are lit up; the same six songs are playing in endless loops from McDonalds to McDonald Douglass. Rudolph’s nose may be red, but my ears are starting to bleed from the 12 hundredth playing of the 12 days of Christmas. I do not object to public displays of artifacts of celebration – even on public property. We are a tapestry and we should all celebrate each other’s happiness. Set up the nativity scenes, the Christmas trees, and the Menorahs; fill the public square with them. Let us all hold hands and sing of our love for one another.
But, under no circumstances should I ever have to face a decorated tree in a Court room. It is unconscionable and offensive to the core to have my license and livelihood threatened for saying, "I want to talk about the tree."
There is no such thing as a ‘holiday tree’. Jews don’t decorate a tree to celebrate Hanukah. So far as I know, a decorated tree is not part of Kwanzaa. A metal pole is the centerpiece of Festivus. Only Christmas and Christians insist on cutting down a tree, dragging it inside, and hanging stuff all over it. That tree is a Christmas tree, period. Abraham Lincoln said that you can call a dog’s tail a leg, but it is still a tail.
Call the tree ‘Fred’ and it will remain a Christmas tree and is a celebration of the birth of a man in whose name millions have been slaughtered and tortured. It has been in His name that millions have been enslaved, tormented, and driven from their homes and lives. That is not a name or person or birth that I celebrate. In fact, through my eyes, that tree is a celebration of a miserable social outcast and the primary source of the deaths of millions of my forefathers. It is not a holiday tree unless your holiday is to celebrate those who would see me dead.
As I said, I may not love their religion, but I share a community with Christians and I do not object and will tolerate their holidays. I care not one bit if they put up their decorations or where. If they want their Christmas trees in the Court house, then put them up in the hallways or waiting rooms. Put the candy in bowls or have the gun toting black shirted deputies hand it out. Do whatever you need to celebrate your holiday, but get that damned tree out of the court room.
A court of law is where God steps aside and lets man take over. It is a place where all men and women, children and adult, can come in and find equal opportunity to be heard and fairness in application of the law. Customers of the judicial system should be treated with respect and know that it will be the civil law and custom that guides the judicial process. There should never be in the back of their minds or the back of the room a question about loyalty or focus of the proceedings. You simply cannot engage in a civil discussion with the presence of Christ hanging around. It is unconscionable and offensive. More importantly, to a less tolerant eye, the presence of the Christmas tree could be automatically perceived as a direct attack on equal access. Have Islamic children been in this Court room? Were they impressed with the candy canes or were they worried about Christians treating them unfairly. The fact that the question is raised proves the point. It is the appearance of fairness and justice that counts.
I know this judge personally and respect him as a man, an attorney, and a fair and well intentioned jurist. His goals for the tree were laudable and I love his heartfelt attempt to ease the pain for children going through Family Court proceedings. If I could, I would vote for him for Sainthood. There was simply no explanation for his explosive temper and threats when I tried to discuss the tree.
As an attorney and officer of the Court, as someone who has to appear and feel like the law and constitution are controlling the proceedings, I herewith demand the removal of that tree. There should be no doubt that each appearance I make in that Court is offensive to me and the Constitution.
Mr. Family Court Judge, with all due respect, tear down that tree. If you do so, I will give $500.00 in your name to better outfit the children’s center at the Court house. Fail to do so and I will give you a stern lecture on the record about the Constitution.