Every year around this time, Jewish parents do their best to avoid the onslaught of elves and flying reindeer. They send their kids to school with little bags of dreidels and gelt and try to create some Hanukkah spirit, hoping there won’t be any tears when Santa passes over their houses. If they’re lucky, their kids might ask—as Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick’s son did—whether Judah Maccabee could beat Santa in a fight.
But last weekend, my husband and I let our children watch a series of classic Christmas cartoons from Paramount Pictures. Both our kids are under 4 years old and we figured we could wait another year to introduce them to the December dilemma. We were all enjoying the animations—they were witty and fast-paced, a world away from the earnest creepiness of Polar Express. Then, a few segments in, we noticed a strange ornament dangling from a branch:
After that, my husband and I started paying closer attention to the names in the credits. Adolph Zukor presents a Max Fleischer Color Classic. Animation by Seymour Kneitel. Music and lyrics by Sammy Zimberg and Bob Rothberg. At the same time as Hitler was trying to scrub Europe of Jewish influence, millions of American children were watching Christmas cartoons created by European Jews. Did they even notice the Star of David on the tree?