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Can a "Chanukah Bush" Be Kosher?

Can a "Chanukah Bush" Be Kosher?


Straddling a fence, sitting with one foot on each side, is not a comfortable position to sit out life. If you don't know where you stand—or sit—how will your children know which direction to take in life? They start off life with a confused identity; and even if the confusion is not apparent, it festers beneath the surface.

This is not something new to Jewish history. Elijah the Prophet struggled with the same notion in his days. He challenged his coreligionists:1 "Until when are you hopping between two ideas? If G‑d is G‑d, go after Him…." The Jewish nation overcame that challenge. The proof is that we are here today as a Jewish nation.

Why should a Jew need to incorporate symbols and rituals from the outside to add beauty to his home and traditions? There is so much depth and meaning in the rich heritage of Judaism. One needs to simply put minimal effort to find it. Spending a few moments on our Chanukah Site would put a wealth of meaning and a rich heritage right at your fingertips.

I do not mean to judge any individual. In most cases, such practices stem from ignorance of Jewish tradition. Moreover, I firmly believe, that every Jewish person, no matter his actions or apparent beliefs, is still a 100% Jew. The distinction is only in how s/he expresses his Jewish soul, the spark of G‑d within.

Wishing you a happy and joyous Chanukah.

All the best,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan of Brooklyn, NY, is a responder for's Ask the Rabbi feature.
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Andrew Workman North Brunswick December 2, 2016

Display of a Chanukah bush is a way of telling the world that I am the sort of person for whom fitting is a more important element in selecting my religious practices, rather than the actual correlation of the "tradition" with the holiday or the holy day or the divine. Reply

Wendy rosen Baltimore December 14, 2014

Creative Judaism I'm a committed Jew by choice for over 40 years. I never wanted a tree... Even tho I grew up with all the Xmas trimmings. But that said, I will not avoid decotating my home with lights just because my Christian neighbors use lights for their holiday. My Hanukkah home is festive ... Very festive and my children and grandchild will always know that during the season they don't have to feel like their holiday is second class. Whatever brings our multifaceted families together is what we should all do. Creativity should not be discouraged. My latkes might come from a box.... But I sing Maozur and Hanerot with gusto. Have a great and unique holiday! Embrace it all! Reply

Suri Katz Brooklyn December 8, 2014

Real yiddishkeit does not need flash. A flash lasts for one second. Yiddishkeit lasts for generations. Do it completely right. Do it the way G-d asks you to do it. This is every Jew's obligation. Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein For December 2, 2014

To Josh Although Rabbi Kogan did not mention this, there is a real possibility that the tree is not only not Jewish, but actually idolatrous. The practice of the tree goes back to the pagan cults who incorporated trees in their idolatrous practices, namely the Asherah trees mentioned in the Torah. This alone should dissuade a Jew who wants to keep his children Jewish from allowing it to infiltrate his home.

More broadly, the key to keeping kids Jewish is giving them full strength Judaism, without apologies. I too live in a not-very-Jewish area, but we tell our children that we are different, that we have our own holidays and customs, and when we celebrate them with the children, we take them completely seriously. The children know that what we have as Jews is in no way inferior to what our non-Jewish neighbors have. Reply

Josh November 21, 2014

On the other hand... I hold the position that a Chanukah bush is nothing more than a Christmas tree in disguise. However, I am open to having one in my home, for my kids. Here is why. Especially down south here in Texas, Christmas is a big deal! Lights, animatronic yard decorations, entire neighborhoods covered in a facade to look like the north pole, you name it. The schools, my kids included, red and green streamers, and bells, and Santa, and, lights, and reindeer and ho ho ho! It's flashy, its exciting, its everywhere! My daughter comes home talking about what her friends are doing and Christmas tree and trains and songs, etc... So, I know a Chanukah bush is just a Christmas tree in disguise. But I am willing to have a false tradition in my home, rather than have my kids run after all this. I can't say I am comfortable with them experimenting with Christianity. So, I'll use the same flashy tactics while my kids are young to keep them Jewish, keep them here. Reply

Anonymous Hamden December 4, 2013

Ironically, the Christmas tree is itself a pagan custom that sneaked into Christianity when nobody was looking and now they see it as the symbol of their messiah, although they're not quite sue how. In reality it would be more accurate to see it as a secular symbol of the season, but as long as it is generally seen as a Christian religious symbol, for Jews to adopt it would be unseemly. Reply

Fruma Delray Beach, FL October 30, 2013

What to call it Some years ago, I started a new job and realized that I was the only Jew in my department. In December, a pleasant young secretary asked me, "What do you call your Chanuka bush, I mean, do you have a special name for it?"
I couldn't resist. "Irving," I said. Reply

Elon Chicago via March 8, 2009

At risk of seeming excessively flippant, the "Chanukah Bush" would be appropriate if one accepts "Chanuka Jesus" as the son of G-d. Why not go door to door singing "Chanuka Carols" about the "12 Nights of Chanukah." Reply

Tuvia Schertzman Betar Ilit, Israel March 6, 2009

Answer to Patrick Apparently you seem to be ignorant of Jewish law. Our laws are derived from our relationship with Gd as witnessed by the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. Unfortunately many Jews deny this special relationship for various reasons, among them a fear of people like you. It is sad, they should come home to where they belong and not interfere with your holiday. Reply

patrick mtl, qc March 5, 2009

jews here we go again, jews who don't want to accept their host population's culture and customs! Reply

Lynne Marton Montreal, Quebec, Canada via January 20, 2009

Chanukah Bush and other Fairy Tales I lived in Israel for five years ('80-'85) and I agree with you. Living in Israel, we never have to question or defend who we are, or try to be something we aren't. However, that isn't the point. The point being that we, as Jews in the Diaspora, must not allow outside influences to dictate our behavior. They make us doubt the validity of our religion by telling us we should be more like them - thus - the Chanukah Bush. A Christmas tree by any other name is still a Christmas tree, and no amount of word play or blue and white decorations will ever change that. All you naysayers can talk all you want, but there is no amount of talk that can rationalize/justify putting a Christmas tree in a Jewish home. Reply

Tuvia Schertzman,MDT Betar, Israel January 20, 2009

one can always llive in Israel.. Here the Jewish people are a majority. We do not know from non jewish religions. Chabad should emphasize aliya Reply

Lynne Marton Montreal, Quebec, Canada via January 8, 2009

The "Chanukah Bush" There are always going to be those who try for acceptance from their community at large, which in most cases is Christian. Unfortunately, we Jews don't live in a world where most of the people are Jewish! We, in a lot of cases, don't reallize that we must accept ourselves and our Jewishness for others to accept us. Unless we are strong enough in our own beliefs and hold fast to them, we will become just like all the others. We change our names to fit in - my last name is Marton - not Jewish-sounding at all. I have been told "you're lucky - you don't have a Jewish last name" - I tell them "I come from a long line of Orthodox Jewish rabbis from Hungary/Romania" - needless to say, they are shocked. The next comment is the one about not "looking Jewish". It just goes on and on. I'm proud to be who I am! My son and daughter, both married, with children, are following the traditions that they were brought up with - Kashruth and our religion! They aren't afraid to be who they are- proud Jews! Reply

Chaya Rivka CA January 7, 2009

I think the "chanukah bush" is definitely assimilation. I think it's really sad. This along with blue and white "chanukah lights" and eight presents, and anything else that just sounds xmas-y. Reply

Ariella Rosencrantz seattle, wa. January 1, 2009

fighting back against ignorance Last week I watched a taped television program on an "educational' channel about entertaining for Chanukkah. It included a guest who demonstrated how to set the table with decorations for the holiday.This woman, who recently published a book of this type of advice, explained that the tall, white topiary in the middle of the table was a "chanukkah bush"! I lost no time in sending off an e-mail in which I explained to her that this might be exceptable for her assimilated clients, but that to the majority of the american jewish public it is an insult. I asked for a timely response from her, and ideally a public retraction. If I don't hear from her I'll contact the network. We have to stand up against ignorance and misinformation. Reply

Lynne Marton Montreal, Qc., Canada via December 10, 2007

The "Chanukah Bush" In my opinion this is just another step in assimilation - into the society that seeks to take away our traditions and infuse us with theirs. We have our Chanukiah (menorah) to light each evening and this is how it should be. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded with symbols of other religions and people telling us that we should be more like them. Why try to be like a non-Jew, when being Jewish is the greatest gift we could instill in ourselves and our children? Reply

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