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Dec 26, 2012

Jews attend Christmas services in church and hear Jewish song

I personally eschew any form of Jewish celebration or enjoyment in non-Jewish religious holidays. I really eschew any involvement in non-Jewish religious events or locations. Meaning, I will not visit churches or mosques, or the like, I will not reminisce about all the great and emotional Christmas music I might have heard on the radio growing up in the USA, or the shows and culture I might have seen on television and movies growing up in the USA. I will not reminisce about the lights and trees and nativity scenes I used to see on neighbors lawns and miss oh so terribly

My form of Jewish pride is pride in being Jewish and not looking to the non-Jewish holidays and culture to make me feel good. That is for them, and this is for us. I admit, I am sure my lifestyle includes plenty of non-Jewish culture that I ingested as a child in America, but I will not spend time and energy pining for their religious holidays and surrounding culture.

This introduction to the post is more than just a comment on the report that will be below. It is also a rejection of the common trend I have seen in the past few years, but much more so this year, of Jews, even frum Jews, posting on Facebook and Twitter and other places, about how much they miss the holidays, or they post their Christmas memories, or what they miss most about Christmas now that they are in Israel, etc. Chrsitmas is out of bounds for me - not because I ban it, but because as a Jew I don't see Christmas, or other religious holidays and church culture, as being relevant to me, even if as a young man and child I did enjoy the tv shows or music of the holiday.

That is also true of the following report on bechadrei. The Beit Jimal monastery held Christmas services last night. it seems there was a significant group of Jewish spectators, mostly out of curiosity I imagine, from Bet Shemesh. Among the group of spectators were also religious and even haredi people.

According to the report, these frum spectators in a church at a religious holiday service, were shocked, SHOCKED, to suddenly hear as part of the service, a popular Jewish religious song. The song they heard sung by the nuns of Beit Jimal was the song "Avinu Av HaRachaman" written about 30 years ago by R' Chaim Bennet for the Seret-Vishnitz rebbe.

If you listen to the song in the video below (decide for yourself on kol isha relevance), you will notice that they sang a beautiful rendition of the song, but they garbled some of the words - specifically every time it mentions "Torah"

אבינו אב הרחמן של ר' חיים בנט במיסת חג המולד בבית גמאל from bhol on Vimeo.

The article expresses the shock and anger of these spectators, and eventually of the original composer after he was told of what was witnessed, that this song written by a God-fearing Jew for holy purposes could be used by the church in this way, sung by nuns for their own holy day. Bennet himself, the composer, sounded hurt when he heard how his song was being used.

I am not sure why the issue being made is of the church using a Jewish song in their services, albeit with slight changes. The real issue should be is why Jews, even frum Jews, are going to a non-Jewish religious service in a church. They claim curiosity, even knowing it is prohibited, is what drew them to attend the services. It seems to me that religious Jews going to a church on a religious holiday for services is much more shocking and troubling than nuns singing a Jewish song.

And furthermore, to the reported issue itself, should it really be shocking that they used one of our songs? Does it affect the holiness or spirituality of the original music (if there is any) just because someone else chose to sing it? Is there really any reason to care what they sing? And looking at it objectively, we do exactly the same thing so often - how many Jewish songs were originally non-Jewish songs? How many Polish marches were converted  into hassidic nigunim? Is it ok to take their music for our needs, but not for them to take our music for their needs?

The entire episode is shocking, but more so that frum Jews are actively involving themselves in celebrations of a Christian holiday.

If you feel you need to clean out your ears and head after hearing the nuns sing for their religious services, feel free to listen to a Jewish rendition of the original song, with all the words...

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  1. say goodbye to Da Bears....

  2. I thought it was really haunting and beautiful. :( Sorry!

  3. This whole story is nothing more than a storm in a communion cup. As the local policemen over here would say, "Move along there, please. There is nothing here to see, or to get upset or excited about".


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