"Many of our rituals have pagan roots, including Sukkot," says Rabbi Faith Cantor, the rabbi/educator at Pikesville's Beth El Congregation, noting that the ritual of shaking the lulav itself has pagan roots.
"That's not something that cancels out Halloween. [Claiming a holiday] is exactly what the rabbis did [with Sukkot]."
In fact, Rabbi Cantor even recalled sukkah-hopping once on a kibbutz in Israel and collecting candy in much the same way that trick-or-treaters do.
Rabbi Cantor, who teaches seventh-grade students at Beth El's religious school, also has spooky plans for the end of the month.
"We are going to be at the Beth El cemetery burying ritual objects and books that can no longer be used," she
says, noting that she
intends to share Jewish stories of ghosts and witches during the activity.
"I'm going to capitalize on the fact that I know my students are excited about Halloween [by teaching] them about what Jewish tradition has to say about what's already on their minds."
will tell the story of King Saul visiting the Witch of Endor in the Tanach, as well as talmudic tales of ghosts and the story of Golem, a character from Jewish folklore created entirely from inanimate matter who came to save the Jews of Prague from anti-Semitic attacks and pogroms.
Capitalizing on the spirit of the season, however, doesn't mean an open embrace of Halloween at the synagogue, as Rabbi Cantor makes clear.
"I wouldn't host a synagogue Halloween party," she
Rabbi Cantor says she allows her own children to trick-or-treat as long as they don't dress in "violent or gross" costumes and greet neighbors with "Happy Halloween" instead of "Trick or Treat."
"I think it's a very personal decision," she
"I think Halloween really has become an American custom, and if you feel comfortable participating, do that to whatever extent you feel comfortable."
Even if that means not sending your own child-ren out trick-or-treating, it might mean setting out candy for other families who do celebrate Halloween.
"Enable somebody else's joy," Rabbi Cantor says.