He Is Jewish, But Being Santa Is His Calling Rick Rosenthal has been playing the role of Santa for almost seven years. At StoryCorps, he recalls how it all began.
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He Is Jewish, But Being Santa Is His Calling

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He Is Jewish, But Being Santa Is His Calling

He Is Jewish, But Being Santa Is His Calling

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, which is when we hear StoryCorps. And today, we meet an out-of-the-ordinary Santa. His name is Rick Rosenthal, and he is Jewish - Modern Orthodox, to be precise. Santa Rick Rosenthal came to StoryCorps in Atlanta with his friend Adam Roseman to talk about how he found his calling.

RICK ROSENTHAL: I was always that guy who was out in left field. I - just the way I was. Everybody felt that way. My dad, God bless him, loved that part of me.

ADAM ROSEMAN: So when did you become an official Santa?

ROSENTHAL: My parents died two weeks apart seven years ago. When mom passed away, dad just gave up. He lost his partner, and in Judaism, you don't shave for 30 days when you lose a parent or a child. So when dad died, I just said, that's it. And I just let my beard grow.

That spring, I was at Home Depot, and I hear this voice. And there was a father looking over, and his son had turned and saw me and was sure I was Santa. And I walk up to him, and I put my hands on my lips. And I said, don't tell anybody that you saw Santa buying tools for the elves at Home Depot.

Being Santa really does make you a better person because he talks to children, gives them respect, he looks them in the eyes and he listens. And he treats them all the same, whether they're 4 or 94. It's not about being an adult or a child. It's about listening and communicating and providing hope.

ROSEMAN: I do recall some of the initial conversations with you planning to become Santa, and I do have to say or admit that I was skeptical, but you are that person.

ROSENTHAL: Well, there are a couple people who think I'm crazy. And, you know, we don't live in a black-and-white world. The world is filled full of beautiful colors. Unfortunately, there are some people who are black and white. As Santa, you have to love people. And you just have to do whatever you can to make their lives better so that they can see the colors of the world.

INSKEEP: All right. Rick Rosenthal speaking with his friend Adam Roseman at StoryCorps in Atlanta. Rosenthal runs one of the largest Santa schools in the country. The interview will be archived along with hundreds of thousands of others at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF FABIAN ALMAZAN AND LINDA OH'S "PALOMA")

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