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.