By Gabi Kamran
What are you doing on October 31? In several countries around the world, millions of people will be celebrating Halloween with festivals, parties, and creative costumes. Here at Milken, October 31 will be another ordinary Wednesday.
At a Jewish school like ours, Halloween can be a controversial topic. Some feel that Halloween deserves a spot on the Milken calendar, but others, like Upper School Principal Dr. Roger Fuller, think otherwise.
“If we understand where Halloween comes from, we would not celebrate it as a Jewish school,” Fuller said, “People don’t understand the nature of what Halloween is and why it’s celebrated.”
Fuller is referring to Halloween’s roots as a Celtic holiday. Originally called Hallow’s Eve, Halloween was the night before the Celtic new year. It was believed that on that night the ghosts of the dead would return to earth to destroy crops and cause sickness, so people wore costumes to ward off the restless spirits. The Celtic tradition was eventually adopted by the Roman Catholic church, making it an official Catholic holiday.
“We don’t see Catholic schools celebrating Purim,” Fuller said.
However, many argue that Halloween has evolved into a completely secular holiday and shouldn’t be avoided by Milken on the basis of its religious origins.
“Halloween is not influenced by any sort of religion,” Max Gains ’13 said. “It’s an American holiday, and we go to an American Jewish school.”
Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin, Rabbinic Director, agrees with Gains that we should integrate meaningful American holidays into our lives, but he doesn’t feel that Halloween makes the cut.
“There are many American holidays that have incredible values that as American Jews, we should embrace.” Bernat-Kunin said, “I don’t think that about Halloween.”
Bernat-Kunin also believes that Halloween involves themes that contradict Jewish values.
“Halloween has a lot of imagery of death,” Bernat-Kunin said. “Sometimes it can celebrate the death culture. Our Jewish tradition is very focused on ‘choose life.’ We celebrate life.”
Many students don’t think that the inconsistencies between Halloween and Jewish values are an issue. Some, like Sam Walfish 13’, see positive values in Halloween that can actually enhance our practice of kehilla at Milken.
“We’re a school that prides itself on being a community, and Halloween is a chance to bring us closer together,” Walfish said.
So what do you think? Should we be able to celebrate Halloween at Milken, or should we keep our costumes in the closet and wait patiently for Purim?