When Jewish Kids Spill the Beans About Santa Claus

Telling Truth About the Man in Red Suit Can Cause Trouble

library bot/wikimedia commons

By Lenore Skenazy

Published December 19, 2013, issue of December 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Santa! Santa! The name is joy itself to children all over America….

Except if they happen to be Jewish. Then, it’s a bit more problematic.

“I’m Jewish, but went to a church-run nursery school,” said Michelle Suconick, a 20-something publicist living in Brooklyn. “Our teacher would tell us stories about how Santa goes all over the world, delivering presents to kids everywhere, but I distinctly remember being distraught that he skipped my house.”

Puzzling over why that would be, the preschooler came up with the only obvious explanation: “Santa hates Jews.”

Yes, she pictured Santa right up there with Goebbels. So one wintry day, when her teacher announced that the jolly ol’ National Socialist would be visiting their class, Michelle went into pre-K panic. “He’s going to smell me and figure out I’m a Jew!” she remembered worrying. “He’s going to be so mad at me!”

“I can’t go to school today,” she told her mom. “Santa’s going to be there.’”

Mom replied: “He’s nice! He gives kids presents.”

“Not to us,” Michelle said, quivering.

Whereupon Mom had to tell her The Truth.

The Truth is not a minor thing for a child to learn; it’s a little like being entrusted with the biggest possible secret that you cannot possibly share: the location of a nuclear bomb, for instance, or Dad’s name before he entered the witness protection program. The Truth bestows upon children a sense of shame and superiority all wrapped up in — well, let’s not say a big red bow. Let’s say blue-and-white wrapping paper.

Video: Nate Lavey

“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.

They moved.

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.

“I always loved Santa, but felt guilty for obvious reasons,” said a banker who wishes to be identified by only his first name, Adam. “When I was young, my mom took me to Alexander’s on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

When it came time to sit on Santa’s lap, I told him I didn’t know if I could get a gift. He asked: ‘Why? Were you naughty?’ I said, ‘No, I’m Jewish.’ Santa said, ‘That’s okay,’ and proceeded to give me a gift-wrapped jigsaw puzzle.”

This only made Adam love Santa (and hate himself) all the more.

It actually sounds like a lot of Jewish kids have confessed their religion to Santa only to find a very understanding guy.

“I’m Jewish, too,” one Santa whispered to a friend’s younger sister. Another little girl — the niece of public relations consultantTracy Bagatelle-Black — visited Santa at the mall and told him that the Hanukkah Fairy was coming. Santa said he knew her well and that they had dinner all the time. When the little girl asked where the Hanukkah Fairy lived, Santa didn’t miss a beat: “Miami.”

He sounds like he might be one of ours, too.

Lenore Skenazy is the founder of the book “Free-Range Kids” and the blog of the same name. Her show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery/TLC International.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.