Santa Claus Sacked At Hoboken, N.J. Elementary School

Jewish Parent Objects, School Changes Plan, But More Controversy Emerges

HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Santa Claus has been “suspended” at one New Jersey school, after some parents complained it was religious discrimination.

Picture day with Santa is a long-standing tradition at Calabro Elementary School.

But this year, one parent, who is Jewish, pointed out other traditions weren’t being represented, reports CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

She complained — and Santa was shown the door.

“I don’t think it was being forced on anybody. There was a permission slip to begin with, so if you didn’t want to take a picture with Santa you didn’t have to,” said Michael Harper, the actor who was supposed to don the red suit.

“My son came home. He was upset. He thought Santa wasn’t coming next and then I had to tell him. He thought Santa’s sleigh was broken. I said, no, Santa’s coming!” parent Heather Moretz said.

The school re-scheduled the holiday event and invited Santa to return.

But this time they also hung pictures of a menorah — to represent Hanukkah — and a kinara to represent Kwanzaa.

Children could choose which tradition they wanted to take part in, but that is sparking a controversy of its own.

“Because that’s a religious symbol. Santa’s not a religious symbol. Santa’s a world symbol, not a religious symbol,” Moretz said.

“I think of Christmas trees and Santa Claus as really being a Christmas. He says ‘Merry Christmas; ho-ho-ho.’ He doesn’t say ‘Happy Hanukkah,’’ parent Erica Ventrini added.

“I never take him to see Santa because we don’t celebrate, so I do think it is a religious thing,” another parent said.

And, if schools choose to address Christmas — whether they believe it’s secular or not — Rabbi Moshe Schapiro of Chabad Lubavitch of Hoboken said they should teach children other cultures as well.

“If there are Jewish children in the class why not include their tradition, their faith, and their holiday?” Rabbi Schapiro said.

The school superintendent declined to comment, but has said public that next year this will be held after school hours to avoid any controversy.

And most parents Brown spoke with said they agree other traditions should be represented.

They only wish parents would have raised the issue before Santa showed up.

Did the school do the right thing? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Tommy C

    Food for thought . Maybe Hitler wasn’t too far off….Just thinking .

    • POX

      Wow, that’s “just thinking”? That’s what you put in “print” – that “Hitler wasn’t too far off?” Maybe you need a lesson in tolerance and a reality check as well. This incident isn’t a “Jewish” thing, though the indelicate reporting would have you think as such: it’s a question of pushing a religious agenda that is not aligned with all children within the school. There are Arab, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, AND Jewish children in Hoboken public schools. “Santa” and “Christmas” are not relevant to them – so why should his presence be a part of a daytime school activity? That’s not tolerance for all religions – it’s a bias toward Christianity…end of story.

  • John

    Let the kids have some fun. If it’s so upsetting to your little precious – let him stay home for the day. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

  • The Hebrew Hammer

    Im on the case!

  • 8staple

    Many years ago when I was a paper boy on Long Island, I would always wish my customers who were Christian a Merry Christmas and those I knew to be Jewish Happy Hanukah. But once I wished one family a Merry Christmas, but it turned out they were Jewish. The lady politely said “thank you but we are Jewish and celebrate Hanukah.” Thinking I did something wrong I immediately apologized. But the lady than said to me, “no need to apologize thank you for thinking of me and my family during this time of year and a Merry Christmas to you and your family. You should never have to apologize for wishing someone happiness.” I always think of that lady every time I see someone who is offended by the word Christmas at this time of year. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas and you don’t celebrate, politely say thank you and move on, you should never have to apologize for wishing someone happiness.

    • POX

      That’s a very sweet story. But it has no bearing on the issue at hand here. Providing a photo-op with Santa on school time blurs the notion of “church and state.” By design, it excludes all other cultures and religions that do not recognize Santa in their celebrations. By doing this, schools are creating a division amongst children where previously one wouldn’t have been obvious.

  • my 2 cents

    they should have asked the parent to remove the child from school if they were that unhappy with how the school was being run. i don’t believe the parent has a right to dictate policy to the school.

    • POX

      The only thing that will save our atrocious public school system is parents dictating policy change. Did you ever hear of “separation of church and state?” – Perhaps you were educated in the local public schools – that might explain your comment.

  • Alice Perez

    This is sad, We all grew up knowing Santa Claus. All of a sudden you get an individual to try to ruin it all. If that person doesn’t like how Hoboken runs the Holidays then that person should go back where she lived and do things her way .Hoboken has always been a loving town with respect to everyone, and their Holiday tradition. the school should of never did what she wanted. this is the season of love,sharing, for the love of Our Savior Jesus! MERRY CHRISTMAS !

  • Snip

    Why did she wait until the actual day of the event to complain? Her kid wasn’t being forced to do this. This sounds like a planned publicity/moneymaking plot. The school should not have changed anything and disappoint all the other kids over this one scrooge who’s clearly got some kind of mean agenda.. This idiot scrooge gives Hoboken a bad name. The previous writers are correct on one point – the kid is going to have a hard time because of all the bitterness and disappointment this has caused everyone else. ScroogeMom has done her own kid more harm than good.

    • Dan Toma

      Not everything is a plot to make money or gain publicity. Did she contact the media herself, or did this story make its way to the media’s attention without her direct intervention? Saying that she’s trying to make money off of this (which I don’t see how, but maybe you’ve got ideas of your own about how to turn a profit from this) is merely a “red herring”, a diversion from the real issue…this is a public school, correct? Or, is it a religious school (i.e. Catholic school, Yeshiva, etc) ? If it’s a public school, then taxes are paying for the children’s educations. If it’s a private school, the parents are paying extra money – above and beyond their taxes – for their children to attend. Either way, this parent has just as much say in what her child experiences [at school] as any other parent, and shouldn’t be made to feel like an outcast or a whiner (as so many other posters here have stated) simply because there are fewer Jewish students than Christian students. If our society is based on “might makes right”, then let’s just come out and say it, and let’s get past these gestures of so-called cultural inclusivity which our country alleges to embrace.

    • POX

      I’d love to hear how this gets turned into a “moneymaking plot.” Do you think getting quoted in a newspaper brings you money? Like the journalist PAYS you for being interviewed? That’s very smart. Or did you imagine that a book deal and major motion picture option is in the works as a result of this scintillating story? And the complaining mom in the plot reaps all the financial rewards!

  • George Cantstandya

    I love the way most people say Xmas is secular. Ur CHRIST MAS- Mass for Christ. The founding fathers did not have Xmas as a national holiday. It became one a century after our independence. Schools should stay out of the religion business and just teach. I am sure after school hours , many will have enough of their Xmas music and traditions.

    • J.A.B.

      Too many “know-it-alls” on here. Didn’t your parents teach you never to discuss religion and politics at the dinner table? Where is your Christmas spirit? Oh, and some of you should go back to school and learn how to spell properly and manage a full sentence that makes some sense. Maybe if there were some fun and traditional things going on at your school growing up, you would’ve learned something as well. Sorry George, this part is not directed at you. Santa, like the Christmas tree, has nothing to do with religion. So, let’s all let the kiddies have some fun and stop over-analyzing. If it’s a bush, a tree, a man in a red or blue suit, an elf, a bunny, a tooth fairy, a Bellschnickel, etc…it’s all fun and it’s all about TRADITION.

      • Dan Toma

        When I read your comment “Santa, like the Christmas tree, has nothing to do with religion”, I had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. That’s a joke, right? Santa has nothing to do with religion? Not directly, to be sure, but the icon that is Santa Claus is linked directly to Christmas Eve (when the toys are delivered through the chimney). Since Santa is linked directly to Christmas Eve, and Christmas Eve, by definition, is directly linked to Christmas, are you saying that Christmas has nothing to do with religion? The name itself – Santa Claus – is derived from St. Nicholas (guess who honors the Saints? Yes, you’re correct, the Catholic Church). The Catholic Church has nothing to do with religion?

        • J.A.B.

          Hey Dan, the icon that is Santa Claus was popularized by the classic story of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Santa Claus was modeled after Saint Nicholas, so you can see it as religious or not, but Saint Nicholas, whom was a religious figure, was noted for giving gifts to children. That notion of “giving gifts to children” was further projected on a grandfatherly type image conjured up by department stores in America. So, it is my opinion via my research and my experience as a child and currently an adult (though I’m no history buff and don’t claim to) that Santa Claus is an idea and in no way connected to religion. Yes, Saint Nicholas is, which I guess is a pseudonym for Santa Clause (or vice verse), so I can see where this can blur into what has become a very hot topic. You have a good point, but I stick with my belief. Santa Claus, like the Easter Bunny and all that fun, childhood stuff that make fond memories, should be something to enjoy and not something to hate. It’s tradition and part of our history, our country and our culture. I do think other cultures and religions who are relatively new to the United States should honor this timeless tradition as we do allow and respect others to continue to practice their own traditions. Isn’t this what makes our country so great? Thanks for the debate.

          • Dan Toma

            I respect your opinion. I also acknowledge that, since these are just that – opinions – yours are just as valid as my own.

            In a few months, I’d be curious to gauge the parental response to someone portraying Moses, and talking to the same class about the story of Passover.
            Talk about timeless traditions! This one predates Jesus by 1,300 years, and Santa Claus by G-d knows how long. Not only that, there’d be no New Testament without an Old Testament, which has its roots in Moses on Mt Sinai. Timeless, to be sure!

            With a little ingenuity, a teacher could concoct some games based on the story of Passover and, as so many other people have indicated, what’s wrong with a little fun in school?

  • Flyover

    The world gave jews their own state (at the expense of the Pal. people) after WWII – they should move there if they don’t like the host nation that they’re living in. Bunch of shallow whiners.

    • Dan Toma

      If we’re going to turn this into a discussion about a Jewish homeland, from which the Jews were forcibly removed on multiple occasions, long before the United States and Great Britain existed, then let’s take that elsewhere, ok?

      • POX

        Dan – please contact me offline. here’s the code – “Mansfield first. Bird of prey” at “google brand ubiquitous provider”

  • fred

    oy vey

  • Michael Bubb

    I am Catholic and go to church (well about about 50% of the time). I also deeply believe in what is commonly referred to a the ‘separation of church and state’. I HATE to see flags in churches and I see no reason to have religious (even vaguely religious elements like Santa Claus) in a public school.

    Instead of calling out the woman who was offended by this, we should acknowledge the pretty basic principle here. She is right. I do not think the answer is to bring in other religion celebrations – leave it out altogther.

    I think the answer is to spend more time on core curriculum and less on extracurricular issues like this.

    • Terri

      The same parent who stopped Santa, was happy to partake in another tradition at Calabro School — visiting Santa at MACY’s. Also parents must sign for children to take photos with Santa, a month in advance. Why would anyone who calls themself a parent, crush children’s hopes THE DAY OF THE EVENT! One month is enough time to realize you have an objection. This woman was called out because she chose to put herself in the spotlight by stopping the event on the day it was to occur. Shame on her. I am not religious, but from my experience, Calabro school has ALWAYS covered all the cultural bases, religion is not a part of a public school but tradition should be. I am very satisfied with the well-rounded multi-cultural education my children have gotten from the Hoboken School System. (including my college age children.)
      As a side note she has also placed her child in a very uncomfortable position, again, shame on her as a parent.

    • Kris Kringle

      I shall leave you a lump of reindeer doody in your stocking. Enjoy.

      • Michael Bubb

        :) – oh no – you are on the internet? I take it ALL back….

  • EVelyn Fleishman Villanova

    Shame on that parent,what a scrooge!

    I for one am JEWISH and I grew up with the belief in Santa Claus. My grandparents were religious, but my mom & dad, bless their hearts, left Christmas presents under our “1950s Christmas Floor Lamp” decorated with ornaments & tinsel, on Christmas Day for me. When I asked mom how does Santa leave gifts if we have no chiminey? Mom replied, Santa had a passkey to all Apartments, including ours in the Bronx!

    Not all Jews feel the way this narrow-minded scrooge feels for the record.

    Santa Claus is not about tradition…like a menorah, Santa Claus is an INTERNATIONAL ICON FOR CHILDREN OF ALL FAITHS~

    • sk

      santa clause is clearly a religious symbol whether you want to admit that or not!just because you are jewish and you are okay with it doesn’t mean that santa is not based on religious beliefs. there is nothing wrong with someone celebrating a religious tradition just not in a public schoo!l

    • Future Rich Guy

      This woman wants to make money by PRETENDING to be offended. I’m looking to get into that industry, too.

    • Dan Toma

      I’m Jewish too, but my parents told me early on that Santa Claus didn’t exist. I don’t recall how old I was, but it wasn’t a big deal – that much I remember. In fact, I didn’t think he existed even before they told me; it was more of a confirmation than anything else. I do recall thinking “it’s impossible for one person to get to every single house in the world on one night”. However, when I was 7 or 8 yrs old, my mom bought a “Hanukah bush” for the living room. My grandparents (her parents) were horrified. We never had another Hanukah bush in the house.

      As a fellow Jew, I’m saddened by your story more than anything else, but I also acknowledge that your story is far from unique; in fact, it’s probably quite common. All it means is that, in each successive generation, we as Jewish people have been assimilated more than the prior generations, and that we are losing our identity more and more.

  • Richard Carlson

    How about this? Forget about Santa, or any other holiday celebration in school and focus on what schools are really for– teaching reading, writing, math, citizenship, physical education, etc. If parents want to tak photos with Santa, a menorah, a tree, or a non-sectarian backdrop, do it on their own time, not the limited school learning time! The same people who are making a fuss about holiday pictures will make a bigger fuss when the schools test scores go down because teaching time was used for holiday photos.

    • Michael Bubb

      I agree.

    • Stacey

      Bah Humbug! Kids should be able to have a little bit of fun in school.

      • Dan Toma

        So, what you’re saying is that fun at school can only be had by having Santa Claus visit? There are no other ways to have fun at school, without alienating segments of the population?

  • Santaself

    I have never in my life been more disheartened and discouraged by the tone of discourse as this situation has bred. The example that is being set for the children of Hoboken is appalling. Instead of teaching negotiation, generosity, compromise and above all charity to neighbors, they are seeing the adults in their community being bigoted, small-minded, mean-spirited and thoroughly reprehensible. If this situation was not handled well, then look at how it can be handled better next year. Meanwhile, our country and many of our neighbors lack jobs and money this holiday season. Instead of fighting over the presence of a mythological figure, show some real “Santa” spirit, and make a donation or contribute your time to the community and teach your children to do the same. I suspect that the “real” Saint Nicholas, who practiced charity by donating dowries to needy young women, would not know what to make of the lack of love in this community, this year

  • Santas Elf

    5:07 pm on Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    I have never in my life been more disheartened and discouraged by the tone of discourse as this situation has bred. The example that is being set for the children of Hoboken is appalling. Instead of teaching negotiation, generosity, compromise and above all charity to neighbors, they are seeing the adults in their community being bigoted, small-minded, mean-spirited and thoroughly reprehensible. If this situation was not handled well, then look at how it can be handled better next year. Meanwhile, our country and many of our neighbors lack jobs and money this holiday season. Instead of fighting over the presence of a mythological figure, show some real “Santa” spirit, and make a donation or contribute your time to the community and teach your children to do the same. I suspect that the “real” Saint Nicholas, who practiced charity by donating dowries to needy young women, would not know what to make of the lack of love in this community, this year

  • Michael H.

    Please stop abusing your exclamation and question mark keys.

  • Maureen Murphy Gallagher

    I’m sure that kid will be out of that school soon…cause he will be ostrasized now, thanls to his politically correct parent!! What a dope!

  • mj

    “But this year, ONE parent, who is Jewish, pointed out other traditions weren’t being represented, ” one parent ? a tradition is stopped because of ONE complaint ? theres no hope left for this country, political correctness has run amuck.

  • Future Rich Guy

    Pretending to be offended has become a VERY lucrative industry. How do I cash in?

  • American Ran

    dear ira,Chanukah only counts to you “the only holiday in December”? Listen to you…..Chanukah is just as much a fairy tail as Santa. Oh, thats right, Gods chosen people. You’re a bigoted moron. Go light your candle and shut up.

    • Dan Toma

      “Chanukah is just as much a fairy tale (not “tail”, by the way) as Santa” ? “You’re a bigoted moron” ? Talk about a pot calling a kettle black!

  • David11238

    Silly. I’m Jewish. I have never, ever felt that Santa Claus was trying to convert me to Christianity when I was a kid taking pictures with him. Granted, I was confused when Santa turned out to be black, when I visited him at the old Macy’s in downtown Brooklyn, but, it was cool. I don’t know. Maybe if the school hired a few actors to chase some kids in cardboard caves and had the kids light up some olive oil fueled menorahs, she’d be cool with the Santa thing.

    • lucbrut

      David, you are too funny.

  • Pam

    Once again, its all about “ME!” This women needs to worry about the serious issues in the school (not Santa!) If she is so upset about her child, then her child should be going to a jewish school. First they take prayer out of school (cuz of some nuts in this world) & now this women wants to put in her own religious views! Boy we just can’t win!!!! Last time I checked Santa wasn’t about religion. It’s Christmas, can’t the kids have some fun?

    • Amy Staniewicz

      Prayer DOES NOT belong in PUBLIC schools

      • Stacey

        Maybe if prayer were allowed in school things would be going differently.

        • Dan Toma

          Ah, but whose prayers? From which “holy book” ?

    • Michael H.

      Santa Claus, a.k.a. SAINT Nicholas, is not a religious figure? What are you smoking, and can I have some?

      • Stacey

        Santa Claus is NOT a religious figure. He was a man who showed a giving spirit.

        • Dan Toma

          So, “religious figures” and “men who show a giving spirit” are mutually exclusive? It’s not possible that SAINT Nicholas (i.e. Santa Claus) was a religious figure AND showed a giving spirit?

  • Meme Meyagi

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

    • J.A.B.

      Mooslime is really a bad thing. Best thing to do is not stand under the animal when it’s eating. There happens to be more slime when he does. Stay clear from the mouth area. Don’t know how mooslime applies to this topic, but adhere to this advice and your won’t get slimed.

  • CP

    “My son came home. He was upset. He thought Santa wasn’t coming next and then I had to tell him. He thought Santa’s sleigh was broken. I said, no, Santa’s coming!” parent Heather Moretz said.

    Do you think lying to your kid like this is the right thing to do? Santa’s sleigh was broken? I feel sorry for the kid. And no, I am not Jewish.

    • Hm


  • Ira Steinman

    There is not such thing as Santa Claus. Why teach these kids to think otherwise?

    Chanukah is the only holiday that counts anyway in December.

    • Marty Caulfield

      There are 2 Billion people who celebrate Chritmas, a day for Who!

    • Stacey

      Wow…small minded much? It’s fun, imaginative, and innocent. Leave it to small minded people to ruin it for everyone else

  • Uncle Vova

    The “soviet prespective”
    back in the ussr were i was born and lived until i was 15, santa or “ded moroz” in russian represented a uniform symbol of the holiday season. It was in fact detached from any religion as religion itself was pretty much surpressed if not outlawed alltogether. Despite being jewish i grew up having christmas trees or “yolkas” at my home during the holidays and did not seek psychiatric or any other help because of that. Now, i am in my late 30s and still put up a christmas tree every year for my kids, next to menorah of course. Fortunately for my kids santa still pays a big role in their lives. However, instead of chrismas eve he comes on hanukkah eve. The only confusion my kids have revolves around why santa has mrs. Claus and ded moroz has only a granddaughter. But that discussion is for a different pst. Happy holidays!

    • Marty Caulfield

      Take Parent VOTE!

  • HobokenMom

    Many Christian parents were annoyed with idea of Santa visiting anyway – after all, this is school — not church or the mall for that matter. Basically, Hoboken schools have poor test scores and shorter school days than most towns in NJ, so really the kids should be in class learning. That is the #1 priority of the school administrators and that is what has many upset. The anti-Semitic rants are pretty upsetting too, and just go to show how important it is to provide a quality education for children so that they don’t grow up to make petty ignorant comments such a few displayed on this board.

  • steve

    Why didn’t they show the parent the door? When does this PC foolishness end? It tears away the fabric of the country’s soul. It undermines the goodwill of the holiday season. It is a school. Schools are there to encourage discussion and dialogue, not single-mindedness and rash decisions.

  • whatever

    oh we go again…wait did i say god…oh nooo. Sanata is much as a fairytail as the tooth fairy…which by the way is related to santa.
    so the whole world must obey by the jewish rules. sigh*
    so when do the gays come out with thier own religion and iconic traditions???
    go home and spin your top on that

    • Michael

      You stupid people.
      You need to forget about religos ties and let kids enjoy some thing that, yes may be a myth, whats so wrong with that.
      You are ruining the Christmas spirit for so many kids, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

      • POX

        Um, maybe you misunderstood: the parents are not trying to lynch Santa Claus – they simply don’t want him to be present at their school. There is a law, may I remind you, that requires separation of church and state. Santa is an icon of Christmas – not Kwanzaa – not Hinduism – not Judaism. His presence is disrespectful to ALL other religions and cultures.

    • Rene Rosa

      God is a fairy tale too.

      • Stacey

        No he’ not. I have faith and love for my Savior.

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