Shalom aleichem shalom!
While Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ, our Jewish friends and neighbors celebrate Hanukkah, which begins this year on December 25th. I didn't want to simply ignore Hanukkah, but since it's not "my" holiday, I forget how important it is to much of the world. So, to my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you a Happy Hannukkah.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The letters pour in from children around the world, telling two magical far-off figures their holiday wishes.
These missives aren't sent to Santa Claus. They come from Jewish boys and girls who, for so long, had no one to write each December. They're for an ageless Kansas City couple known simply by Yiddish derivatives for grandmother and grandfather, Bubbie and Zadie.
The story was created in 1981 by Danny Bloom, then a thirtysomething public relations professional at an Alaskan community college who wanted to pen a holiday narrative for Jewish children.
"I remember as a Jewish kid myself growing up in Massachusetts every winter reading the newspaper and seeing the TV shows about Santa Claus. Jewish kids couldn't participate," he said.
The story told of a diminutive grandma and grandpa, bundled up for the cold, who are able to fly through the skies on the first night of Hanukkah. Bubbie and Zadie once lived in Alaska but later moved to Kansas City to run a tailor shop. They visit children everywhere, bringing them stories and songs instead of gifts.
In 1985, his story was published as "Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House." It wasn't a huge sell but publicity surrounding its release kept children's letters coming by the thousands. Bloom answered them all with handwritten notes.
The popularity of Bubbie and Zadie has risen and fallen through the years, as Bloom moved to Japan and now, to Chiayi City, Taiwan, where he is a freelance writer.
He is 56, single, and rents a fifth-floor studio apartment. He rides a bicycle and motor scooter because he has no car and sends e-mails from an Internet cafe because he doesn't have a computer.
With his book out of print, many of Bloom's young writers have found it at a library, come across it on the Internet, or have parents who as children read the Bubbie and Zadie story themselves.
Using an address posted online, most children send letters the traditional way, though Bubbie and Zadie have also received e-mail.
Some of the letters amount to Jewish children's wish lists, but most are exactly what Bloom hoped for - messages of innocence and simplicity.
"Your Hanukkah story in the book is so beautiful and I enjoyed having Grammy read it to me," wrote a 7-year-old Kansas City girl.
"I was so happy to get your letter in the mail because here in Idaho there are not many Jewish people," said an 11-year-old girl from Boise. An 8-year-old boy from Teaneck, N.J, wrote: "My older sister says you might be fake! Are you?"
When responding, Bloom says, he tries to put himself in his own grandmother's frame of mind, not preaching about religion, just being a friendly older presence who treats children as his equals. He signs all his notes "Bubbie and Zadie."
Bloom calls the Bubbie and Zadie project his hobby. But with no synagogue to be found and Judaism virtually nonexistent in Taiwan, it may serve a larger purpose, too.
"This program connects me back to my own culture," he said. "These letters fill up my life with something I don't have."
Bloom's program is now in its 25th year, and he hopes that it might someday inspire a cartoon or film.
"It's my big dream that writing to Bubbie and Zadie would become a part of American Jewish culture," he said.
Above story By MATT SEDENSKY
find out more about Bubbie and Zadie at: http://bubbieandzadiefiles.blogspot.com
Letters to Bubbie and Zadie can be sent to Bubbie and Zadie's Tailor Shoppe, Offshore Global Maildrop, Post Office Box 1000, Chiayi City, 600-99, Taiwan.