Halloween & Costumes

Dear families,

I usually send out thoughts on the first of the month but I will be at a conference the second half of next week so am sending these thoughts today. As I am sending this week, I thought I might tackle the subject of Halloween and costumes.

Last year for Halloween, a father in Kentucky dressed himself as a Nazi soldier and his son as Adolf Hitler. When called out for these choices, the dad said that it did not occur to him that it was wrong. This defense of “it didn’t occur to me” has been used countless times over the years and most recently by politicians who dressed in Black face including the Canadian Prime Minister, Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General, and countless others. It seems that “it didn’t occur to me” has passed its expiration date. While I know that this issue “has occurred” to most of the CJDS families, I still feel it is worth sharing the following thoughts as they relate to Halloween costumes.

At CJDS we do not celebrate Halloween in school (we ask that children not come to school in costume and that no treats are sent to share). However, while it is not celebrated at school many celebrate at home. When choosing costumes, I advise to be respectful of all cultures by not dressing up to reflect another culture. Of course, one should never alter their skin color to black, brown, yellow, or red to signify any ethnic group or style one’s hair in a way that represents another culture. 

I have been asked by families how to know if a custom is offensive.
I suggest considering the following reflective questions:

  1. Does this costume represent a stereotype of an identity that you are not a part of (African American for those who are white, Native American, Latinx person, etc…)?

  2. How would you feel wearing this costume in a room of people who hold this identity?

  3. Would someone take offense if you wear this in public?

If any of these questions are a problem or you are not sure if they are a problem, the costume is most likely not a good choice. If anyone has questions about this topic, feel free to call me. Again, please remember that we do not celebrate Halloween in school.

Best,

Rabbi Meir

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