I for one won’t. This year, that is. I’ll be packing suitcases. And given the current situation in Israel, I know many of you won’t either.

Jüdische Allgemeine contrasts two different views on whether Jews should celebrate New Year’s Eve or not. Lena Gorelik, a Munich author, represents the pro-, Rabbi Avichai Apel (Orthodox, Dortmund) represents the contra-position.

Briefly put, Ms Gorelik thinks that celebrating New Year’s Eve was something Jews could participate in as it wasn’t really a religious holiday anymore, unlike Christmas, and compared it to joining birthday celebrations and pointed out that most Jews abided by the Gregorian calendar all over the world [I only know very few Chasidim that make appointments going by the Jewish calendar]. Rabbi Apel on the other hand claims that chiming in with those New Year’s celebrations conflicted with Jewish identity and that the background of that day was too Christian to ignore the roots.

Oy. To set this straight, indeed, 31st December is known as Silvester / Sylvester in many parts of this world because of a pope. Guess what? Catholic Christianity (which includes the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches of all varieties plus the Anglican / Episcopal church) has got saints assigned to every single day of the year. There are biblical saints, e.g. Abraham and Sarah, whose saint day was set to be on 9th October. There are people who suppposedly lived an extraordinarily virtuous life (compares to the Chasidishe admiration for tzaddikim). There are people from ecclesiastical history, e.g. Nikolaos (6th December) and in this case Pope Silvester (one of four ones to be exact).

Now, it might be worth noting that the ecclestical year does not quite coincide with the Gregorian calendar as it begins on the first Sunday in Advent (that’s when the cyclus of lectures starts all over again). Also, a letter by Cicero documents that the Romans would celebrate the night preceding 1st January (with considerable quantities of alcohol). In the Soviet Union, people were permitted to celebrate on 31st December as that date was considered undoubtedly secular – as opposed to 24th / 25th December and 6th / 7th January.

So, to not discredit Rabbi Apel, I can understand his point that celebrating the beginning of a year the number of which was (more or less) determined by the supposed birth year of Jesus of Nazareth made him feel uncomfortable. Then again, most Jews believe as little in the messiahhood of Jesus of Nazareth as they believe in that the world was created literally according to the biblical stories of creation and less than 6,000 years ago. My suggestion is that if you do believe in the biblical stories of creation and the later implemented Jewish calendar, don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you do believe in the possible messiahhood of Jesus of Nazareth and still are Jewish, don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you don’t believe in either, then take an adult decision.
Sapere aude.

About the author



  • If you believe in the possible messiahhood of Jesus of Nazareth, you are not still Jewish.

  • In the New Year’s Eve I hang out with some of my band of jewish friends who surprisingly the half believe in the possible messiahhood of Yeshua like me with some discretions and wow! I still feel very jew.

  • The “Jüdeische Allgemeine” is probably the only jewish-themed publication where the the editor in chief’s name is Christian Böhme.

    Froylein, du bist die erste Jüdin(?) aus Deuscthland, die ich kenne, welche die Jüdische Allgemine liest.

  • Themicah, no kidding, it used to be widely celebrated among Christians on 1st January. There are nunneries that during the Middle Ages would even put a circumcized baby figurine on display. The Second Vatican Council abandoned that holiday.

  • One of my kid’s got a full regular day of school, and NO.. she is not allowed to mention that it’s a “holiday”…it’s just that the goyishe bus drivers have a day off and the minivan brigade will have to schlep them to Monsey.

    One’s got half a day of school because G-d forbid he should miss a day of learning Torah before the upcoming 10 day “mid-winter recess” which celebrates 1)lower hotel and airplane flights, 2) that the goyim will not be staying in the hotels and 3) the parent’s who work in the “outside” world using up all their vacation and personal days but the Rebbes and Morahs don’t care because after all, those “bal ha’batim” have sooooo much money anyway.

    One kid’s got the day off.

    Just to reiterate: I didn’t pick their schools.

  • Froylein is not the only german jew reading the “Allgemeine”, me too 😉 (OK. I am a contributor, so count me 0.5)

    Froylein. His name is Avichai Apel; not Apfel.
    What is most disturbing: He reads the torah literally and quotes the earth was build 5769 years ago and shows little respect for the believe of other religions (Jesus was some guy with an unknown father).

  • froylein, you meant not ‘Epostolic’ but Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, which for the time being lacks jurisdiction over eastern Orthodoxy and the Church of England (just so your readers are clear on that). (The liturgical calendars are similar, though.) We hope to reunite soon with our eastern brothers and sisters and to add the Anglicans the way Bank of America added Merrill Lynch.

    (January 1 is still a HDO– however, not having to do with Jesus’s bris, as far as I know.)

  • Chajm, oooops, I’ll correct that. Must have been my dislike for apples… 🙂

    Tom, the Eastern as well as the Anglican churches, while not tied to the Roman Canonic law, are still part of the Catholic church. 1st January officially is not a particular holiday compared to regular weekdays; I checked the ecclesiastical calendar.

    Chutzpah, that’s sooo shtetl. 😉

  • Chuzpah, your kids must be really confused between you and their moras/rebbies. I bet you don’t pay full tuition either. Why such anger?

  • Froylein, here’s what the authorities tell us:

    “In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows:

    January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God…”

    To be honest, I’d rather not have to show up at 9 am Thursday with a hangover, but….

  • Tom, you need not as it’s not a holiday endorsed by the Santa Sede and not up to a diocesis to establish; bluntly put, Vaticanum 2 abandoned the day for a reason. Besides, Xmas (Xmas Eve plus the two following Xmas days) is the only time when you may attend eucharist more than once per week. I talked about that only the other day with two friends that are profs of ecclesiastical history respective dogmatics.

  • Jewcurious, it’s not only the parents’ right but responsibilty to critically assess what happens at their children’s schools. I don’t think the points of criticism Chutzpah raised this time were inept at all, particularly since the schools’ policies [negatively?] affect all students and their families. At that, it doesn’t matter in the slightest who covers the tuition expenses of Chutzpah’s kids. A lot of my students live on welfare or student loans, but that doesn’t make them second-rate students or their parents second-rate parents. Students should earn their degrees through work, not through money.

  • froylein, I’m gonna take your info to the US Catholic Bishops with my note of protest.

  • With all due respect, froylein, what was Chutzpah’s point? I was interpreting Chutzpah’s ‘tone’ as being indicative of Chutzpah’s not being satisfied with the kids’ schools fundamental policies. So, as far as being a 1st rate parent – one should help their kids to develop healthy self esteems and ability to recognize the truth and not to confuse them. Kids can get confused when adults say one thing and do another. And it’s even more confusing when parents, teachers and other adults – all say and do different things. Why place your kids in such setting? Yes – It is certainly not a holiday – as far as the teachers (Rebbis and Morahs) who do the walk and talk the talk and whose kids are not likely to be confused about the matter. Money? Where you spend it shows what is important for you – if the schools with Rebbis are important, you would pay whatever you can (in which case you would also much appreciate any assistance if you get it) to make sure your kids get the best. The issues regarding goyishe “holidays” and frowning at the prospect of “squandering” your limited vacation days are too essential – not to have been assessed before the schools were selected.
    Perhaps you are all joking here and I just got serious…Wishing all parents to be 1st rate! Die besten Wünsche!

  • Jewcurious, Chutzpah’s point was that there was a gap between the schools’ ideals and practice, labelled in a fashion worthy of criticism.

    As someone who works and has partaken in research in that field, I can assure you that money is no guarantee for good education. It is rather telling, for instance, that the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) carried out by the OECD brought to light that the average US American private schooler performs on the level of the average German special schooler. And in Germany, all schools but one are public (even the religious ones).
    Teaching your kids self-confidence inevitably comes with teaching them to be independent thinkers, lest their alleged self-confidence constitutes out of nothing but self-absorbed complacency, or, as my more religious bf put it, “delusion”. I think it would be a safe bet that most parents would like the best education available for their children, but the quality of that education is not determined by its price but by the teachers’ / mentors’ qualifications. The following might serve as an example of not uncommon recruiting policies at yeshivot: a friend of mine from Monsey was asked by his former rosh yeshiva whether he would teach English classes at said yeshiva. There was a shortage of English teachers, and English classes are part of those two-lessons-per-week of mandatory secular studies needed to receive public subsidies (this was confirmed to me by a BP rosh yeshiva). The only English that guy spoke, however, was the amount of English he had learnt from me in a few months’ time. He was aware of his lack of qualification for the position, so he declined the job offer. Somebody else might have taken and likely took it later on. Parents should be way more critical about what their children get fed at school. My students are adults, so it’s within their responsibility to critically reflect upon my teaching.

  • Dear froylen, I agree with you, but the key – your students are adults. They must make choices, and if they are equipped well – they won’t be making a lot of mistakes.
    The children in Chutzpah’s comment seem to be still very young. You do not have them making all choices – only what is appropriate for their age. Kids need to know what is absolutely right and wrong.
    The issue of all schools being available for all regardless their ability to pay – is a separate one, but since it is not the case here in Monsey – the parents should really think hard and make choices to benefit the kids. I was not raised in the US, but my kids were. We decided to place them in schools which we never had opportunities to study in – meaning we would not always agree with the policies. The principal said to us on the day we had applied – thank you for trusting us with the precious Neshamos, please, think very hard, because I am asking you not to mock at home what we teach in school – it would not be beneficial to your children. That was a long time ago, froylen, we had seen, lived and learned a lot since then. The schools were not perfect, but the kids that came out from the homes of those parents who took the tuition assistance for granted and quickly switched when they had to pay – had made some big mistakes, unfortunately.
    If English is important – do not send the kids to the Yeshivishe schools.

  • Children of divorce are often exposed to conflicting world views from each parent. If the parents agreed, they’d still be married.

    My kids are not confused. They clearly see the hypocrisy and extremism in the lifestyle their teachers and friends live.

    Children on scholarship at Yeshiva’s are absolutely second-rate citizen’s compared to those who have families which have dedicated classrooms in the buildings.

    Jewcurious, this is where I come to vent my anger at Ortho Fundies since DK already has most of the issues covered on The Kvetcher. If you don’t like my tone, don’t read my posts.

  • BTW, I would give my right-arm, right kidney, right lung and right ovary to get my kids out of their fundamentalist, extremist schools. Unfortunately Judges in the Civil Courts don’t always make the right decisions in the “best interests” of the children.

  • Here’s where Orthodox Jews spend their money:
    1) Kosher meat processed by criminals in Iowa
    2) custom sheitels where the hair comes from Hindu idol worship
    3) custom kitchens done by unlicensed contractors, plumbers and electricians
    4) Borsolino Black Hats
    5) hookers and porn

  • Chutzpah, please use a softer approach. You could say, for example, “Here’s where some of the Orthodox Jews I know spend their money…”

    Surely you see how that makes all the difference in the world.

  • You are right Middle and I really do promise to work on it. All this anti-semitism takes a lot of energy.