Notes from a Yid #2
By Howard Glass
Chanukah 2014 has ended. We cleaned the last of the melted wax from our chanukiahs, unplugged the electric menorah in the window, put away the bag of potatoes and latke mix, both regular and sweet. Dreidls in the dreidl box, the special hand towels back in the “Chanukah drawer.”
Like many Bet Ha’am families, mine is one created and held together by a marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew. As in many of these households, the light from Chanukah candles is reflected in shiny globes hung from a Christmas tree. Our CD player alternates between Theodore Bikel, Andy Williams, The Klezmatics, and back to Bing Crosby.
My Jewish children are pursuing graduate studies in New York and New Orleans, lighting Chanukah candles and frying latkes with friends. I think of them when they were small, watching the candles burn down, my eyes watching the light reflected in their eyes, as they noshed on latkes and applesauce.
As my girls opened presents, I received a kiss from each for each gift, for eight wonderful nights. I long for those Chanukah kisses.
This year my wife and her children made Chanukah special. My dear wife and I exchanged gifts, lit candles, and ate latkes with applesauce. My stepson and his girlfriend accompanied me to the celebration for Orly, our religious school director, and watched as many menorahs, ours included, lit up the sanctuary. We noshed on all sorts of delicious dishes, and kibbutzed with whatever part of the mishpuchah was nearby.
My wife Pam and I hosted a little Chanukah party for our daughter Amanda and her friends, complete with small children, dreidls, and endless latkes, eaten with applesauce, sour cream, and even ketchup. I told the Chanukah story, explaining that when I was young, jelly doughnuts were not a part of our tradition. When Pam lit the Chanukah candles, as she does on Shabbat, she drew the smoke toward her, explaining to our guests how this brought her closer to God. While tears welled in my eyes, I could only wonder how I had never before seen this.
Memories flooded to me: being small, my mother of blessed memory lighting an old brass menorah, one arm missing, the eighth candle stuck in a shot glass. As we did then, all present chose the candle likely to be burning when all others went out.
Chanukah, like all Jewish holidays, is about religious freedom, and intolerance.
We all have the obligation to think past the words “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.” It’s not our tradition to exclude. For those who feel threatened by the the differences among us, I have a simple recommendation: Make a party, invite each other, have fun.