Jews play Santa for families in need

Michael Oshan and Susan Meyers, who helped start the Congregation of Emeth’s annual Christmas meal service, played Santa Claus and elf at St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy, California on Christmas Day. Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

At St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy, California, the annual Christmas meal for the needy  “kicked off with a Jewish blessing and ended with a visit from Santa,” writes Marisa Kendall in the San Jose Mercury News.

Twenty-five years ago, members of the nearby Congregation of Emeth synagogue offered to take over the free meal and gift giving so church workers could celebrate Christmas with their families.They’ve been doing it ever since.

Susan Meyers, a Jewish elf, helped feed the needy and hand out gifts at St. Joseph’s Family Center on Christmas Day. Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

Susan Meyers, a Jewish elf, helps feed the needy and hand out gifts at St. Joseph’s Family Center on Christmas Day. Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

Two of the original synagogue volunteers, Michael Oshan and wife Susan Meyers, were there, dressed as Santa and his elf, to hand out wrapped presents and warm coats and sweaters to adults.

“It’s become such a part of our culture that this is a big thing we look forward to every year,” said Emeth member Denise Wyl, also in elf costume.

About 150 people ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and “on tables covered in red and green paper in the glow of a brightly illuminated Christmas tree,” writes Kendall.

Volunteers cooked and served 18 turkeys.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Have a jolly holiday.

Dave Barry’s holiday gift guide

Think you’ve bought the perfect gifts for friends and family? Check out what you missed in Dave Barry’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.

The Wearable Hummingbird Feeder, a face shield with a feeder tube that comes out between the eyes, is only $79.95.

“Imagine having a hummingbird hover right in front of your face,” writes Barry. “Specifically, in front of your eyeballs. It’s darting around and thrusting with its long, pointy, needle-like beak. RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR EYEBALLS. WHICH YOU USE TO SEE.”

It’s also the perfect gift for the armed robber on your holiday list, writes Barry. (“Do what he says! He has a hummingbird!”)

Snakes Toilet Topper, $3.45-$8.99, is “a highly realistic decal that goes on a toilet lid and makes it appear as though two large snakes are emerging from the commode bowl.”

For the pet owner, there’s Cat Stay & Wash, $9.95 to $13.99, a harness connected to a suction cup. “You simply put the harness on the cat (allow six hours) then attach the suction cup to the bathtub, and then it will be “easy” to wash your cat, according to the manufacturer, who apparently tested this product on cats from another galaxy.”

Puff ‘n’ Fluff Dog Dryer, $44.99, answers the question “what do you do when your dog gets wet?” Let the dog dry out is the wrong answer.

Santa’s transcript

He may be a slow learner, Santa Claus has earned mostly A’s and B’s over the centuries at North Pole University, according to a transcript released by National Student Clearinghouse.

Santa passed courses in Reindeer Behavior, Quantum Mechanics Time Travel, International Business Logistics and Behavioral Science: The Naughty vs Nice Debate to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration and adolescent behavior.

His only C’s were in a beard-trimming elective and a course called Avoiding Grandmas and Other Pedestrians. He took a P.E. course on weight management pass/fail and managed to pass.

Have a merry Christmas — or enjoy the Chinese food.

A Jewish parent’s guide to Christmas specials



Dahlia Lithwick offers a Jewish parent’s guide to TV Christmas specials.

In her generation, Jewish kids were permitted to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Their children also can watch them.

Jewish parents avoid Jesus, Santa (and Rudolph), saints and resurrections (including Frosty), Lithwick writes.

“Perhaps my favorite e-mail laying out a Unified Theory of Jewish Christmas Viewing drew the line thus: ‘claymation and puppets, esp. from Europe = yes; cheap animation and pop music, esp. from US = no’.”

Yet “apparently all Jewish children are permitted to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas,” even though it ends with Linus reciting Luke 2:8-14: “Fear not: For behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you.”

 . . . there’s something about that poor schlump of a Charlie Brown and his inability to get into the spirit of Christmas (much less receive a single Christmas card) that speaks to the Jewish people. Indeed, if there is a more profoundly Jewish line than Linus’ “How can you take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem?” I have yet to hear it.

Many Jewish kids watched the Grinch every year, because the Boris Karloff version was “a classic.”

But dig a little deeper and what surfaces is a universal (and discomfiting) sense that the Grinch is a fundamentally Jewish show because the Grinch himself is a fundamentally Jewish character. I got one e-mail that concluded, “Who is more of a Grinch than a grumpy old Jew?” And a Jew with a heart problem no less?

The Year Without a Santa Claus clearly violates the “No Santa” rule, and yet is considered Jewishly acceptable, she writes. Perhaps Jews like to see Christmas under threat — even if it’s saved in the end, Lithwick speculates.

I didn’t watch Christmas specials as a kid or a parent, except for Charlie Brown. Well, I did love Menotti’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, if that counts.

When a classmate disses Santa

“Santa isn’t real,” a third-grader told his classmates — including Jessica Lahey’s son. What’s a mother to do?
“Well, that’s just crazy talk,” she said.

That night, he appeared in the living room in his pajamas. “Part of my brain tells me I believe in Santa, and part of my brain tells me it’s the parents,” he said.

“Santa is real because he lives in our hearts, and the magic of Christmas is still alive because Ben gets to help it live on in his little brother, Finn,” she said.

“I wish I didn’t know,” Ben said, as he went to bed. But he returned from school the next day with plans to help his little brother write a letter to Santa.

We all moved on. Well, Ben moved on. I wanted to tie his truth-telling classmate to a medieval torture device. Instead, I spoke to Peter’s mother and gave her some casual, friendly feedback that although I completely understood her family’s ideological stance on Santa Claus, for the sake of her younger children’s classmates, they might want to keep their family’s reality within their family, particularly around the holidays.

A week later, Ben walked into the kitchen with a very odd look on his face — knowledge mixed with some smugness — and declared, “Hold on. If you guys are Santa, then that means you are also the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.”

Now the little brother is 11 and putting “this ‘Tooth Fairy’ thing” in air quotes. The era of credulity is over.

My Jewish family celebrated a secular/pagan Christmas. I still use the felt-on-cardboard Santa tree-topper they got 60 years ago. (My father said a star was too religious, but Santa was OK.)

When my much younger brother was in second or third grade, our father asked: “So, David, what do you think of this Santa thing?”

“Well,” said David. “I like to go along with the gag.”

He’ll be visiting with his family — including a six-year-old daughter and almost four -year-old son — so we will be a Santa-believing household.

Carnival of Homeschooling

On Golden Grasses, the Carnival of Homeschooling looks forward to Christmas.

Nutcracker field trip is back on

The Mouse King dances in the Joffrey Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker in Chicago

It’s a Christmas miracle! An elementary school PTA in a Boston suburb will not cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker.

Someone complained children would see a Christmas tree on stage, reports WHDH. Other parents complained when the PTA decided to end the optional trip.

The Nutcracker does indeed have religious content, notes Reason.

Everyone in the ballet is celebrating Christmas, a Christian holiday commemorating Christ. Same thing happens in A Christmas Carol, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas, Black Christmas (a slasher movie) and—heck—Handel’s Messiah.

. . . How about all those Renaissance paintings of Mary and Jesus? Should the PTA ban trips to the art museum?

“Kids can be exposed to ideas and cultures different from their own”  without feeling offended. Or they can decide not to go.

Snowfall vs. the Grinch

A portrait of Mr. Noble by one of his students.

Arthur Noble II was in “full Grinch mode” on Dec. 23. A Head Start teacher with Teach for America in Chicago, he had to work through the holidays so parents could work. He missed his family. Determined not to teach, he turned on Dora the Explorer. Then it started to snow.

We watched the snowfall in silence until Ella, a precocious Ghanaian three-year-old, started telling a story about holidays at home: “We don’t have snow at Africa where my family is, but we all go to church and eat together.”

Two Mexican students chimed in excitedly about staying up late for church, and a Nigerian boy proudly broke out in a church processional.  A student from Spain bubbled over about her grandpa, who loved her all the way from his village, and showed me a letter full of hearts she had been working on intently during Dora.

Gianny said with a growing toothy grin, “Dude! My uncles are gonna watch football and take me fishing. I like fishing, and they always teach me how!”

Then Rihanna hugged my shin, “Don’t be sad Mr. Arthur. You can come to my house … my mom makes chocolate cake for my uncle when it snows. She is the best cook and you are just sweeter than piece of chocolate.”

His preschooler family “laughed and shared stories of love, family, and snow for the rest of the day.”