As the years passed, I came to treasure this season and to fall in love with America and its distinct values (what I call the American Trinity: Liberty, In God We Trust and E Pluribus Unum). While director of a Jewish institution from 1978 to1983, I volunteered to be Santa Claus for the Simi Valley Rotary Club, of which I was a member. So, during the same week that I led Sabbath services and study for about a thousand Jews, I also went to my Rotary Club meeting -- what is more American than the Rotary Club? -- and was the Santa Claus for a local department store.
It is that season now, and I never fail to get goose bumps when I hear Burl Ives sing "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," let alone when I attend a performance of Handel's "Messiah," surely the greatest religious music ever composed. I love hearing people wish each other "Merry Christmas." When my Jewish day school-attending children were young, I used to take them to see homes that had particularly beautiful Christmas lights.
Those who wish to remove Christmas trees from banks and colleges and other places where Americans gather are not only attempting to rob the 90 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas of their holiday, they are robbing this Jew, too.
And I first realized all this in a Muslim country.
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