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The Jew Who Loves Christmas

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There is nothing in Roberta Goldberg's childhood that could possibly explain her obsession with Christmas decorations. She was raised in a Jewish home. Her first husband -- now passed on -- was Jewish. So what can account for the extraordinary exhibit that she sets up every year in her Beverly Hills condo, a Christmas display that would rival Macy's in New York?

To find out I visited Roberta Goldberg and her boyfriend John Platis, who is a willing accomplice in this holiday compulsion.

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It all began one Christmas about four years ago when John took Roberta to the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County to see the famous Christmas pageant. She had never seen one before, and the spectacle took Roberta's breath away. The next year John showed up with a tree and a few decorations. John handed Roberta a bulb and the conversation went something like this:

Roberta (holding the bulb): What do I do with this?

John: You put it on the tree.

(Roberta hangs it on the tree.)

Roberta: What do I do now?

John: You put another one on the tree.

Roberta: Oh.

This year's tree.
This year's tree.

 

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Roberta quickly discovered the joy of mechanical decorations. Her favorite is Santa climbing a ladder.

 

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Friends contribute as well. One donated a pair of ice skates and Roberta did her magic. Just add glitter, and voila!

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John says his job is to do the "heavy lifting." But he does much more than that. He designed, built and wired the sturdy wooden support that sits invisibly beneath the amazing display.

Roberta -- a former go-go dancer in the '60s, and nurse by profession -- opens her home to small groups of kids and friends who ooh and ahh at the colorful panorama. Then in January she packs every item away in large plastic containers, labeled and stacked so neatly that she doesn't have to rent storage space.

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There is one thing I noticed: There is no manger scene, no Mary, Joseph or baby Jesus. Her response? She says she loves the "spirit" of Christmas, and that's what this is all about.

But in the midst of all the Santa Clauses and reindeer I spotted one sign of her Jewish upbringing. It sits on its own table in the dining room. It's a sparkling blue and silver menorah fronted by Rabbi "Teddy."

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