Should Halloween be taboo in the Jewish community as a whole, and the Orthodox community in particular?
In my mind there is one simple answer: No.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I did grow up trick-or-treating (in groups with other Jewish kids). It was a really great thing to get excited about in the abyss between the High Holidays and Chanukah. But to be clear, I was NOT celebrating Halloween. I was participating in the American ritual of dressing up on the night of October 31, and begging for candy at the front door of my neighbors (or the richer community we would sometimes drive to).
Trick-or-treating on Halloween has a very interesting history – at least according to Wikipedia – but the form it has taken on today is completely secular. There is not religious connection to the current manifestation of Halloween, and children of all races, religions, and ethnicities participate in this beautiful example of America as the mixing bowl.
Halloween is no more or less antithetical to Judaism than Thanksgiving, the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. Some in the Orthodox Jewish community avoid those last three as well, but we’re not them. Why has this fear of trick-or-treating persisted over so many years?
Was it antisemitic acts that may have taken place during a time when Halloween was also know for mischief and pranks? Perhaps. Was it a general perception of the holiday as being a celebration of the devil? Perhaps that was it as well. Regardless of these outdated reasons, why can’t we just let the kids have fun?
I am not advocating that Jewish schools start having Halloween costume parades or other themed events, but as a community I think we should allow Jewish children to just have fun like everyone else!