Jews have been the vanguard of an effort to “transform Christmastime into a holiday season belonging to all Americans,” without religious exclusivity. The most important Jewish mechanisms of secularization are comedy and parody, for laughter undermines religious awe. Take, for example, Hanukkah Harry from “Saturday Night Live”, who heroically steps in for a bedridden Santa by delivering presents from a cart pulled by donkeys named Moishe, Hershel, and Shlomo. Remarkably, Hanukkah Harry has emerged as a real Santa-alternative for many American Jews. Plaut sees such things not as attempts at assimilation but as an intentional subversion of Christmas traditions. “Through these parodies,” he writes, “Jews could envision not having to be captivated by the allure of ubiquitous Christmas symbols.” And it isn’t just Jews: for Americans in general, Jewish parody helps ensure that Christmas “not be taken too seriously” and that the celebrations of other traditions “be accorded equal respect and opportunity.”
There seem to be two messages here. One is the message of subversion utilizing ridicule among other methods. The other is that Jews are seen as high-mindedly making Christmas “into a holiday season belonging to all Americans.” The end result is that Christmas is not “taken too seriously” and the Christian religious aspect central to the traditional holiday is de-emphasized.
People who take their religion seriously do not allow their religion to be ridiculed. One need only think of the Muslim reactions to cartoons ridiculing Mohammed. The fact that Jews have been able to ridicule Christianity without any serious negative consequences is an important marker of Jewish power and an equally strong indication of the decline of Christian religious belief. I suspect that the organized Jewish community would react in outrage if non-Jews ridiculed religious Judaism. Indeed, any criticism of Jews as Jews is off limits in the mainstream media. (A topical short list of verboten topics: the loyalties of neocon Jews and their role in promoting the war in Iraq, the Jewish aspect of theIvy League admissions scandal, how Jewish control of Hollywood influences media content.)