Someone needs to write the Jewish angle on "CITH". Here's my outline:
Most Jews in the US today have an experience something like mine: growing up, Christmas and everything associated with it became uncomfortable. It is the one time of the year when American Jews experience directly what European Jews a generation or more ago confronted every day: that they are the "outsider," the "alien" looking in on a culture that they live in but are not truly part of. Christmas makes many American Jews feel more Jewish than Yom Kippur.
I grew up in the 50's in a suburban public school that was about 75% Jewish kids. Yet every year, our whole month of December was devoted to learning Christmas songs to perform at the annual school Christmas assembly. Occasionally an empathic music teacher would try to add a Hebrew Khanuka song or two that no one understood, but that only underscored the weirdness of our singing praise for the birth of a messiah we rejected.
As a result, I've never like Christmas music. I feel assaulted by it every day, every year, every time I enter a store or public building, used to be from Thanksgiving onward but now it has been stretched back to Halloween. I know, some Jews love Christmas music. I have Jewish music teacher friends who love it. I don't. I like Christmas light displays; only the music drives me bananas.
I've been a Bob fan since Freewheelin' was new. I've always felt a special connection to Bob as we shared Jewish origins. Bob's Gospel period has always been troubling to me, but he's grown long beyond it, so WTF. (He likes Chabad; I have no use for it).
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond and dozens of other Jewish singers have done Christmas albums, and I know lot of people love those albums, but I don't.
Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas." Discuss.
So whatever you say about CITH, however you explain how Bob is an American ethno-musicologist participating in the very genre he studies, adding subtle twists and nuances to rejuvenate tired war horses, I still don't like it at all. I hope someone does. I don't want to hear it in stores each December for the rest of my life.
Too bad Bob didn't do a Festivus album instead.
Being the nice Jewish girl that I am, I've posted my unhappiness on Bob's doing the album. That wasn't well received. I think so far the religious objections have been lumped in with all the other reasons people have been posting. It really is a different thing.
Even in SoCal, the presumption that everyone is Christian and therefore celebrates Christmas and wants to hear Christmas music is pretty overwhelming. I'm not thrilled about the album and of course, its existence doesn't mean anything in regards to Bob's beliefs. Lots of Jewish artists have recorded Christmas albums. Ok, so I don't love that either because too many people don't get that it's music and they tend to minimize Judaism because of it. On this board, Bob's ongoing relationship with Chabad has been seriously minimized by a number of people. Apparently some people just can't accept he's seeking out and going to a very Orthodox place for High Holy Days for religious reasons.
The Jews I've talked to about this have mixed reactions. The insider who had heard the album was Jewish. She said she liked Christmas music. Told me the "throwback" album "was a hoot" and that I wouldn't hate it. welllllllllllllll... A Cantor I spoke to admires Bob and initially said he didn't mind him doing the album. OTOH, now he's hesitant to go to any shows in October because he's afraid Bob is going to do some of the Christmas songs and he doesn't want to hear that. I agree and will be very unhappy if he does any of the songs in Hollywood. Would I have objected less if he had made it more of a holiday album and thrown in a couple of Hanukkah songs? Yup.