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For Jewish children, a holiday visit from Bubbie and Zadie

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The letters pour in from children around the world, telling two magical far-off figures their holiday wishes.

These missives aren't sent to Santa Claus. They come from Jewish boys and girls who, for so long, had no one to write each December. They're for an ageless Kansas City couple known by Yiddish derivatives for grandmother and grandfather, Bubbie and Zadie.

The story was created in 1981 by Danny Bloom, then a thirtysomething public relations professional at an Alaskan community college who wanted to pen a holiday narrative for Jewish children.

''I remember as a Jewish kid myself growing up in Massachusetts every winter reading the newspaper and seeing the TV shows about Santa Claus. Jewish kids couldn't participate," he said.

The story told of a diminutive grandma and grandpa, bundled up for the cold, who are able to fly through the skies on the first night of Hanukkah. Bubbie and Zadie once lived in Alaska but later moved to Kansas City to run a tailor shop. They visit children everywhere, bringing them stories and songs instead of gifts.

In 1985, his story was published as ''Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House." It wasn't a huge sell but publicity surrounding its release kept children's letters coming by the thousands. Bloom answered them all with handwritten notes.

The popularity of Bubbie and Zadie has risen and fallen through the years, as Bloom moved to Japan and now, to Chiayi City, Taiwan, where he is a freelance writer.

With his book out of print, many of Bloom's young writers have found it at a library, come across it on the Internet, or have parents who as children read the Bubbie and Zadie story themselves.

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