With thanks to the URJ plus input from Rabbi Librach and UJC Principal Daryl Bain, I wrote this letter that was recently distributed to the members of the United Jewish Center.
On Sunday, October 31, you will most likely send your child out for Halloween “trick or treating.” Many of Halloween’s originally pagan-based rituals – some of which are antithetical to a purposeful Jewish life – have been transformed to an American cultural experience. And while Halloween is not a Jewish holiday, we want to encourage you to think about how you can bring Jewish values into your “observance” of this event.
Here are some suggestions for including the Jewish values of tzedakah (justice) and ba’al tashchit (avoidance of gratuitous waste) into your Halloween experience:
- As a family, list the amount of money you would usually spend on costumes, decorations, and candy. Add up your estimates (there’s a math lesson in this activity too!) and see how much total expense Halloween will cost the your family. Discuss alternatives for this year and brainstorm different ways of distributing that money.
- Highlight the positive value and fun of opening the door at home and “giving to” others instead of “taking from” others.
- Have a tzedakah box at the door and demonstrably put in a coin (telling each “trickster” that this is a part of their “treat”) for every visitor who rings the bell.
- Use those coins or count the number of trick-or-treaters and use the total number as the basis for purchasing non-perishable goods for the St. James Food Pantry in Danbury, which we support.
By the way: Remember Purim! In just a few months, we’ll have the opportunity of retelling the story of the Book of Esther, dressing up in costumes, giving gifts to each other and those in need, parading around the synagogue, and celebrating the triumph of good over evil.
As always, we are available to answer any questions you might have.
Cantor Penny M. Kessler and Rabbi Clifford E. Librach