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“I grew up in a school where I was one of maybe two or three Jewish kids my age, so it was really confusing to me that all my friends got to do something I didn’t get to do,” Chicagoan Carly Scaduto (née Kaufman) recalled. “So my parents took the ‘you’re-going-to-know-something-all-your-friends-don’t-know’ approach, and it kind of backfired.”
Kind of? “I remember I was hanging up my coat at school, and next to me was this boy Tom — not Jewish — and I was just like bursting with, ‘I know something you don’t know!’ And I told him point blank. No conversation. And of course — he cries.”
By the time Carly arrived home, her mom had already gotten a call from Tom’s mom — whom Carly had to apologize to directly. An adult! “That was tough,” she said. Then again, she understood. After all, Tom was the eldest child in the family, and she just might have ruined the holiday for every sibling after him, and also for the parents… and grandparents… and cousins….
Her family started looking at houses in a more Jewish neighborhood.
A similar event with a very different ending happened in another kindergarten class. “My daughter and her partner in crime — a little Jewish boy she had a crush on at the time — told all the other kids in their class that their mommies and daddies were really Santa,” Manhattan lawyer Lisa Weiss recalled. “This caused a huge amount of consternation, but their kindergarten teacher came up with a really clever way to save the magic.”
The brilliant lady brought a gingerbread man into the classroom and later told the kids he’d run away.
Of course, she’d simply moved him to another room while the kids were at recess. But she had her students go hunt for him, and when they found him in another classroom, that’s all it took. Clearly, magic was real, so Santa was, too. The Christian kids were happy, and the Jewish kids were absolved of the kind of guilt that has been haunting the lives of some of their co-religionists for decades.
My editor, Naomi Zeveloff, still winces to recall her preschool “truth rampage.” In damage control, the teacher had to tell her to shut up about Santa’s non-existence.
“I was only 5 years old,” Zeveloff said, “but I felt like the only sane person in the room.”
That’s got to leave some scars. But there’s the other kind of pain, too — the pain of wanting to believe.