Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein
As almost any child from a Jewish home can attest, sometimes all the hooplah surrounding Christmas can make Hanukkah seem pale by comparison—even if you do get eight presents for Hanukkah.
Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein is a book that faces the dilemma head on. How do you explain to your Jewish child that Christmas is someone else's holiday that you just don't celebrate? Shouldn't all holidays be celebrated? Shouldn't all celebrations be shared?
Rachel Rosenstein loves everything Christmas. She loves the decorations; she loves the lights; she loves the elves and candy canes and blow-up Santas; and she really loves those piles of presents "wrapped in shiny, beautiful paper. Everyone on her block celebrated Christmas. . . . Everyone except for Rachel Rosenstein."
In an atttempt to counteract the lure of Christmas, the book goes on to extol the special aspects of Jewish holidays and especially Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Interestingly, the honors of doing the blessings of Shabbat are given to Papa Murray, whereas in most Jewish households, it is the matriarch of the house who blesses the candles, the wine, the bread. Maybe another aspect of Rachel's Jewish experience is an egalitarian approach to the sabbath. Though to press my point further, the matriarch of the house is given the honor of the blessings exactly because it is a matrilineal religion and women in their many roles are considered "more precious than rubies."
Regardless, when Rachel fails to get her family on board, she decides to write to Santa. The best line in her letter is: "I know that you are a really fair person and will not mind that I am Jewish. After all, so was Jesus, at least on his mother's side." Then Rachel secretly puts up stockings and Christmas decorations, and even gets the cookies ready for Santa by the chimney.
Will Santa show up?
The illustrations by Christine Davenier are pen and watercolor, giving the images a sort of blurry, colorful, retro feel that is reminiscent of children's book art in the 1970s. Above all, Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein is a lighthearted book. And for parents and teachers who despair of addressing the apparent discrepancies between Christmas and all other end of year holidays, this book might ease the discomfort.