Rabbi Bob Levy knows where to find a lot of his congregants on Christmas morning—at the Michigan Theater, where Temple Beth Emeth will be sponsoring a showing of Shrek. Several years ago, the energetic rabbi initiated the Christmas films because, as he puts it, “if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to do it.” The family-friendly flicks (previous choices include The Wizard of Oz and Fiddler on the Roof) usually draw several hundred people, including at least a few non-Jews (admission is $6, and everyone is welcome).
The rabbi is well versed on coping mechanisms for a holiday that isn’t yours but is impossible to ignore. When his own two daughters were little, Levy says, he had to avoid shopping malls at Christmas after his oldest inquired with interest about the Briarwood Santa. And the temple, like many others, runs “December Dilemmas” workshops to help interfaith couples wrestle with the Hanukkah-Christmas question. But anyone can, in good conscience, enjoy the G-rated movies, for which the rabbi encourages people to dress in character. At a showing of The Sound of Music a few Christmases ago, he himself dressed as a “ray of sunshine” from the song “Do-Re-Mi.” As it happens, this year’s feature has a Jewish connection: shrek is Yiddish for “fear.”