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December 24, 2014 3:54 pm

Jewish Santa to Help Cook Sausages, Eggs for South Jersey Kids at Ronald McDonald House

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A Ronald McDonald House. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A former New Jersey councilman dressed as Santa Claus will visit the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey on Christmas morning to prepare food for sick children and their families, Philly.com reported on Wednesday.

Dr. Joseph Hassman, who is Jewish, began playing Santa about 35 years ago when he volunteered to visit a nursing home in town. He borrowed the red suit from a fellow councilman. He also puts a pillow under Santa’s jacket for the complete “full belly” look.

The osteopathic physician has visited Camden’s Ronald McDonald House every Christmas for the past 14 years, Philly.com reported. He said Santa Claus almost always elicits a smile but it makes him teary eyed thinking of the families living at the Ronald McDonald home during difficult times.

“It brings joy to the hearts of all kids, no matter what their religion is,” Hassman, 79, explained. “But what brings me back to Ronald McDonald every year is that the kids that sit on your lap don’t ask for dolls and trucks, they just want their brother or sister to be well enough to come home for the holidays.”

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Hassman’s wife, Lillian, and several of his children, grandchildren and cousins join him on his visits to the home away from home. On Christmas day this year they will distribute donated gifts and help cook sausage and eggs for the house’s 22 families with ill children, according to the report.

“It just chokes me up,” Hassman said while holding back tears. “I want my kids, my grandkids to know the value of giving back and that’s why they come with me. I want them to carry on the tradition when I can’t do it.”

Teddy Thomas, executive director of Camden’s Ronald McDonald House, said Hassman’s visit brings “holiday joy” to the families. The help also enables the staff to go home and spend time with their families.

“It comes from his background of being a family doctor. He has just the right personality to do this,” Thomas said. “He’s a truly caring man.”

Lillian Hassman added about her husband, “It’s really all about the kid in him.”

Joseph will one day pass down his Santa suit to one of his sons and let them take over. He said, “I’ve told them to get ready, ’cause Daddy can’t always do this. I’ve got the pillow for them.”

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