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This Santa Claus is an Orthodox Jew
Just like any other Santa Claus, Santa Rick will spend much of the next couple of weeks sitting children on his knee, asking whether they’ve been good and listening to their Christmas wishes. If it’s a Saturday, he may have slept overnight in the building. And he’ll only accept payment after nightfall. For Santa Rick’s last name is Rosenthal, and he’s an Orthodox Jew who does not drive or handle money on Shabbat. But that doesn’t stop him from doing his job.
Rosenthal — a full-time, professional Santa — sees no contradiction between serving as the symbol of Christmas and living as an observant Jew. To him, Santa is a nonreligious spiritual figure who provides trust, reassurance and comfort to the young and old. “As a Jew, we are to be a light unto the world,” Rosenthal said, paraphrasing a famous Jewish aphorism from the Bible. “That’s one of our jobs. If we can help make people’s lives better, we should do that. It’s a mitzvah. If we can ease tensions between Jews and non-Jews, we can do that.”
Rosenthal began playing Santa at age 16 as a gag. He would dress up and hang mini bagels on his non-Jewish friends’ Christmas trees. He occasionally played the part in subsequent decades. But he became a full-time Santa seven years ago when two things happened: First, his parents passed away within two weeks of each other, which led him to grow out his beard, a custom of the traditional Jewish 30-day mourning period after a parent’s death.
Rosenthal has become Santa year-round. He and his wife, Tracy, run a Santa school, Northern Lights Santa Academy, that hosts three-day weekend seminars on how to be Santa. The school covers everything from fashioning a good costume to making sure you have legal and insurance protection in place. But the seminars also promise fun times, like a Christmas movie screening and a photo op with a live reindeer. The couple also runs the National Santa Agency, which books a network of 100 Santas, Mrs. Clauses and elves for private parties and events. Rosenthal is a member of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.
But one thing that has not been a challenge, he says, is a Jew playing Santa. He makes clear that he’s not a Christian minister or even St. Nicholas. To his mind, he’s an American Santa who wants to help people. “Santa is an American cultural thing,” he said. “When I’m Santa, I’m Santa. I’m a spiritual guy who believes in the world being a better place.”
Пы. Сы. Кстати, данный случай представляет особый интерес, в силу известногокрайне болезненного отношения части американских евреев к рождественским символом. Рискну предположить, что в данном случае роль амортизатора сыграла именно ортодоксальность Розенталя. Поскольку, когда твоя еврейская идентичность покоится на прочном надежном фундаменте, можно расслабиться и не доказывать ее методом от противного.
Хотя, разумеется, многим никакой фундамент не помогает.