My mother (Christian) lives in a Jewish assisted living home. We picked it based on quality of care, elder values, and proximity to our family. My mom just asked if it was ok to put her Christmas wreath on her door this Christmas. It's March so I guess she is thinking ahead. ;) Would this be disrespectful? While Jewish at its core, it is still an equal housing facility. What should she do? My mom is 92 and I am typing this question for her on that internet thing. LOL.
Thank you for your sensitivity and for your question. Unless the facility has a specific rule against the wreath, your mother should feel free and be encouraged to hang the wreath. I believe that it is important that from a perspective of Jewish values, what is essential is that the elderly in an assisted living facility continue to feel that their space is their own. When your mother was younger, had she rented an apartment from a Jewish landlord, she could practice her religion in the apartment despite the landlord being Jewish.
This is also consistent with Jewish law. Jews are required to remove hametz, leavened products, from all their property on the holiday of Passover. However, if a non-Jew is renting property from the Jew, the non-Jew may maintain their own leavened products even if the home is own by the Jew. We see the rental as being their space.
So, again I thank you for the sensitivity of the question. I wish your mother many more years of health and happiness and in advance wish you all a Merry Christmas.
Your mother sounds like a very considerate and kind woman. How nice of you to assist her, demonstrating your own care for her and demonstrating her values. It is very respectful of her to ask permission, rather than simply to put the decoration on the door. I do not think it is inherently disrespectful to hang a wreath in a Jewish assisted living home. At the same time, many places may limit door decorations of all kinds. Many places suggest that decorations be placed within the apartment, so to keep public spaces more neutral. Without knowing the policy of the home, I cannot speak to the need to ask for an exception. On a practical level, she might ask for a temporary exception for a few days, which they may be more likely to grant than for three months.
I am so appreciative of this question because it demonstrates sensitivity to both the Jewish community and to the reality of Jews and Christians living together in communities where both might want to be able to comfortably expresses their religious identities. As a Jew living in a predominantly Christian society, I am always extremely grateful when I have the opportunity to share my religious traditions and not have those of others imposed upon me thoughtlessly. Being greeted with “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”, being able to feel safe placing a menorah in my window or on my synagogue property, seeing the Jewish children from my synagogue participate in Holiday celebrations at their schools rather than Christmas pageants, all affirm my religious rights and freedoms and those of my fellow Jews, regardless of being a minority people. By the same token, I would hope that any Jewish community would welcome it’s gerim toshav, it’s resident members of other faiths, to freely and safely express their religious identities and practice their rituals and customs. I would sincerely hope, therefore, that you mother would be welcome to hang a Christmas wreath on her door, erect a small tree in her apartment, wear Christmas sweaters, or practice any similar custom. I would similarly hope that she would be welcomed to participate in whatever holiday celebrations are taking place during Chanukah and that she would be encouraged to invite her fellow residents to support her celebration of Christmas by joining her for cookies, eggnog, or the like on Christmas Eve and/or Day.
That said, I cannot speak for your mom’s new community, although I certainly hope that they share my views. My suggestion would be to speak with someone on their staff to make sure that you and your mom are aware of their policies and practices. If their stance is not reflected in this response, then I would encourage you to see it as an opportunity to begin a dialogue with them about how to make residents who are not Jewish feel more welcomed to express their religious identities and celebrate their religious observances.
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