Next Tuesday, December 12th, Jewish families across the world will gather around the Chanukah menorah, say prayers, light candles, and enjoy delicious latkes and sufganiyot (Hebrew for doughnuts) to commemorate the first night of Chanukah. Some in the secular world view Chanukah as a major holiday, since it falls around the same time as Christmas. Although Chanukah is not a major holiday, it can have a huge impact on the lives of children who celebrate it. Two people whose lives were impacted significantly tell their stories below. Spoiler alert – one of the stories is mine.
The first compelling account of Chanukah came from a blog entry by Saskia Swenson Moss, niece of Dayton’s own Meredith Moss Levinson. In the article, Saskia shares the impact Chanukah had on her Jewish identity. Although Saskia grew up in a small town in Vermont, which had virtually no Jewish people or Jewish organizations, her yearly family Chanukah celebration provided a significant connection to her Judaism. I encourage you to read Saskia’s blog by clicking here.
My story comes from growing up in Tampa, Florida. As I read Saskia’s words, I was transported back in time to the wonderful Chanukahs of my youth. I vividly remember standing in our kitchen. On the counter sat a brass-plated menorah with aluminum foil underneath. The flickering flames created a warm, soft glow, as the candles dripped a beautiful assortment of colored wax down onto the menorah. These were the candles everyone had in the blue box, not the fancy ones available today.
After the menorah lighting each night, we would enthusiastically rush into our living room, where my mother and father would give us presents. There were even a few presents from Santa (my parents’ attempt to make us feel included in the holiday fanfare that surrounded us in the secular world).
It was such a special time for me and my sisters. And many years later, after both my parents had passed away, one of my sisters took the tattered prayer sheet that came with the box of Chanukah candles, laminated it, and gave me and my other sister our very own copy. It is a precious reminder of the special Chanukah memories I carry with me. Thinking about the worn-down copy of the prayers and the wax encrusted menorah brings back memories of the Gardner family celebration, when everyone participated in a Jewish tradition with enthusiasm.
For our Dayton Jewish community, I invite you to join us on Wednesday, December 13th at 5:30 pm at the Boonshoft CJCE for a community-wide Chanukah celebration, where we will celebrate the Festival of Lights! It is my hope that this fun-filled evening will provide some wonderful memories for you and your family. Click here for more details.
I wish you all a beautiful Chanukah filled with love and light.