OK, this may seem like a completely gratuitous column about my new book, but it is actually a story about how intolerant a neighborhood famously liberal Park Slope can be.
As tout le monde knows, the cover of my book, “Chrismukkah: The Official Guide to the World’s Most-Beloved Holiday,” features a statuette of Santa Claus wearing a belt adorned with a gold Jewish star and hair featuring Hasidic-style side curls (in white, to match his beard, of course).
As far as I’m concerned, you can judge this book by its cover. To me, that Jewish-leaning Santa is a cute icon that perfectly captures the spirit of Chrismukkah.
But to some Park Slopers, it’s an offensive, horrifying image that must be censored!
The trouble started last week, when organizers of the Writers on the Rooftop series at the Prospect Park YMCA created a large poster to advertise my reading on Dec. 4.
The poster featured the “Santa of David” image, plus ABC News producer Buck Wolf’s promotional quotation from the back cover of the book: “What Tom Cruise and Madonna are doing for Scientology and Kabbalah is nothing compared to Gersh Kuntzman’s gospel of Chrismukkah. Oy to the world!”
But when I showed up for the reading, the poster had been altered to remove our “Jewish” Santa and Wolf’s quotation. As a direct result (I am certain), the reading’s walk-in crowd was, how you say, poor.
One of the organizers told me that the poster was censored as a result of “complaints” by Y customers.
I immediately called the YMCA (which stands for Young Men’s Chrismukkah Association, doesn’t it?), but Executive Director Sean Andrews said, “At this time, I have no comment.”
He said he’d call me back, but I’m still waiting. (He didn’t attend my reading, either, by the way.)
Given my devout atheism, I admit that I might not be the best person to judge whether “Hasid Santa” is offensive or not. So I called the book cover’s designer, who was also stunned that Park Slope sensibilities had been so offended by the cover.
“It’s not a controversial image,” said the designer. “I’m a Roman-Catholic parochial school girl, and I find it playful and tongue-in-cheek. You have to remember, though, that some people are offended by any secular image of Christmas. To them, Christmas is just Christ in the manger. Even Santa is offensive.”
At this point in the story, I felt it was time for her to tell me what she loved about my book.
“It was so witty and wry, which is why the cover couldn’t be too sweet or saccharine,” she said. “Your tongue-in-cheek approach really sold this book for me.”
I appreciated her kind words, although she admitted she was “doped up” on Teraflu, a medication whose side effects do include “dizziness,” “sleeplessness” and “overpraising the work of Gersh Kuntzman.”
She, of course, got her copy of the book for free. The rest of you can support for free speech by buying my book today. It really is a great Chrismukkah stocking-stuffer — if that doesn’t offend you.