Below is a selection of views from Moment Magazine.
As you might be able to tell, I come from the “lighten up” school of thought when it comes to Halloween. But the question as to whether or not Halloween is “un-Jewish,” is complex. It's all about “Jew-sion,” the fusion of Judaism and surrounding cultures. It’s a perfect time to discuss this, because there is a clear connection between the story of Noah (this week’s portion) and the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, as well as other ancient legends. See a chart comparing the two epic tales here. It shows clearly how the destiny of all humankind is intertwined.
This is not so much a halachic question; it is a public policy question. Do we want to prohibit or permit this activity?
President, Jewish Life Network/ Steinhardt Foundation
As Halloween is celebrated nowadays, it is mostly about trick-or-treating, dressing up, having fun and getting free candy, with few or no religious overtones. That said, there are issues about celebrating it that areJewishly problematic and are worthy of consideration by thoughtful Jewish parents.
A more serious conflict arises when Halloween coincides with Shabbat, Jewish holidays or Hebrew school attendance. What kind of message is a parent giving to his or her child when he or she is told that to go out trick-or-treating takes precedence over Jewish study or celebrating Shabbat and other Jewish holidays?
Parents may also wish to consider the values suggested by Halloween, such as demanding sweets from strangers. The original saying is in actuality a threat: “If you don’t give me a treat, I’ll give you a trick.”
Can Jewish kids live without these ghosts, goblins and candy? I certainly think so. Will it do irreparable damage to their Jewish identities if they participate? Probably not. But as parents, we should think about the values, priorities and commitments we want our children to develop.
Though I write as a Reform rabbi, I offer what can be called (in the phraseology of Rabbi Isaac M. Wise) an American Jewish response.
In this same light, there are few who would connect the carefree, costume-wearing, candy- gorging escapades of our children on October 31 with the religious overtones that the holiday once carried. As such, the holiday has evolved into a secular celebration. Therefore, it would seem to be as innocent an activity as celebrating New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving (both of which once had Christian connotations).
We could boycott All Hallow’s Eve for its ghoulish associations—and, in medieval Christendom, Jews received more trick than treat. We might avoid this holiday of “pagan” origin, lest we “do as the other nations.” Ghosts of Halloweens past may still haunt us.
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation,
In the American melting pot of shared cultures, trick-or-treating is as religious as a bagel. Dressing in costume for occasions other than Purim is Jewishly acceptable. It makes sense that Jewish schools don’t celebrate Halloween, but it’s normal for Jewish students to want to take part in it.
When Halloween falls on a Friday, hold a party on motza’ei Shabbat. Invite your child’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends and serve delicious, kid-friendly food. More harm is done to Jewish continuity by forbidding youth from observing holidays like Halloween than by supporting the celebration in safe and healthy ways.
President, OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal
This is a tough one. Jewish children should learn about their own traditions rather than always celebrating everyone else’s. Still, it is far better for a Jewish child to go trick-or-treating than to celebrate an iota of Christmas and Easter.
Walking Stick Foundation