a h n C u y k p a p h a H
Supplement to Jewish News December 8, 2014
May the Lights of Chanukah Shine Brightly on Your Home
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emember last year when we ate our latkes with cranberry sauce, as the first night of Chanukah landed on
Thanksgiving? This year’s holiday seems ‘more on time,’ starting on the evening of
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Tuesday, Dec. 16, just as schools are about to close for the winter break. For families,
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that translates to more celebration time each evening since the kids don’t have to rise and shine early the next morning. In fact, Chanukah offers an abundance of celebration options. Maybe that’s because the festivities continue to evolve as we seem to ‘bump it up’ each year as if we will heighten the holiday’s status to be closer to that other
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December holiday…Christmas. Whatever the reason, we have articles that
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reflect all the activity surrounding Chanukah, which, by the way, means “dedication” in Hebrew, and refers to the eight-day commemoration of the victory of the Maccabees over
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the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. Along with new ideas for latke parties, we offer an overview of how some around the world observe the holiday, a look at decorating with Chanukah lights, some high-quality
Cover: Chanukah lights on Colley Avenue in Ghent, Norfolk. Photo by Steve Budman. QR code generated on http://qrcode.littleidiot.be
chocolate alternatives to traditional Chanukah
gelt (yum!), a preview of an exhibit about Chanukah and Christmas music at the National Museum of American Jewish History
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in Philadelphia and an essay about gift-giving,
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their favorite Chanukah memories.
However you celebrate, the staff of Jewish Chanukah!
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among our other features. Plus, locals share
News wishes you a warm, tasty and Happy
Special Features Date Issue
Terri Denison Editor
Beyond latkes: Chanukah around the world by Ruth Abusch Magder
SAN FRANCISCO (MyJewishLearning.com)— Chanukah is observed with joy and celebration in Jewish communities around the world. There are eight nights of lights and blessings the world over, but there are also many ways that different communities make the holiday uniquely their own. Here are eight customs and ideas to help you make your celebration just a little more global. • I n Alsace, a region of France, double-decker Chanukah menorahs were common with space for 16 lights. The two levels, each with spots for eight lights, allowed fathers and sons to join together as they each lit their own lights in one single menorah. •O ne custom is to place menorahs in a place where people will be able to view the lights burning and appreciate the miracle of the holiday. In some Jerusalem neighborhoods, spaces are cut into the sides of buildings so people can display them outside. Historically in countries like Morroco and Algeria, and even some communities in India, it was customary to hang a menorah on a hook on a wall near the doorway on the side of the door across from the mezuzah. • I n Yemenite and North African Jewish communities, the seventh night of Chanukah is set aside as a particular women’s holiday commemorating Hannah, who sacrificed seven sons rather than give in to the Greek pressure to abandon Jewish practice, and in honor or Judith, whose seduction and assas-
sination of Holofernes, the Assyrian emperor Nebuchadnezzar’s top general, led to Jewish military victory. •G ift giving at Chanukah is primarily a North American custom, but it is easy to make it global by gifting Jewish items made around the world such as handmade necklaces from Uganda, challah covers from Ghana or kipot from China. • I n Santa Marta, Colombia, the new Jewish community Chavurah Shirat Hayyam, has started its own traditional Chanukah recipe. Instead of eating fried potato latkes, they eat Patacones, or fried plantains. •T he Jewish communities in Ethiopia and parts of India split off from the larger Jewish community in ancient time before Chanukah was established as a Jewish holiday. They only began celebrating the holiday in modern times, when their communities were reunited with other Jewish communities. • I n 1839, thousands of Jews fled Persia where the Muslim authorities began forcibly converting them, and settled in Afghanistan. While some lived openly as Jews, others hid their Jewish identity. When Chanukah time came around, they would not light a spe-
cial menorah for fear it would attract the notice of Muslim neighbors. Instead they filled little plates with oil and set them near each other. If neighbors stopped by, they could simply make the menorah disappear by spreading the plates around the house. •T he rich culinary traditions of the Moroccan Jewish community know not of potato latkes or jelly doughnuts. Rather they favor the citrusy flavors of the Sfenj doughnut, which was made with the juice and zest of an orange. Notably, from the early days of nation building in Israel, the orange came to be associated with the holiday of Chanukah as the famed Jaffa oranges came into season in time for the holiday celebrations. —Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder PhD. is the rabbi in residence at Be’chol Lashon and the editor of the blog Jewish&. A culinary historian and mother of two, she lives and meditates in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @ rabbiruth.
Are ‘Chanukah lights’ Kosher?
hen did Christmas get the monopoly on lights? After all, Chanukah is the original Festival of Lights. That’s why the Chanukiah is placed in the window. A passerby is supposed to see the lights and remember “A Great Miracle Happened There.” In Hebrew, this is called this Pirsum HaNes or publicizing of the miracle. Many years ago, a candelabra in the window may have been enough to catch the eye, but in an age of strings of lights, blow-up Santas and singing reindeer, the Chanukiah may not get the job done. So why shouldn’t Jews hang additional lights that are uniquely Jewish in nature, to help fulfill the mitzvah of Pirsum HaNes? Sam Guthrie and his company, Holiday Lighting and Design, has been in the outdoor Christmas decorating business for seven years and for seven years he has been frustrated to see so much publicity for Christmas and so very little for Chanukah. This year, Guthrie’s company will offer a line of custom-designed Chanukah decorations, including light-dreidels that appear to spin, Stars-of-David and Chanukaih —all with lights that dance to pre-programmed Chanukah music. Why go through all of this effort and fight for Chanukah lights? “This is important to me,” Guthrie says. “I want my six-year-old son, who attends Hebrew Academy, and his friends to see Chanukah all around them during this season so that they can be as proud of their heritage as the Maccabees were of theirs.” To learn more about a Chanukah light display, email holidaylightinganddesign@ gmail.com or call 757-822-4640.
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Chocolatiers raising the bar when it comes to Chanukah gelt by Deborah R. Prinz
NEW YORK (JTA)—Sharing their favorite Jewish chocolate experiences recently, a group of about 60 chocolate lovers didn’t even mention Chanukah gelt. That is, until one woman at the New Jersey get-together shared her thoughts on the subject. “It is sucky,” she said, meaning that the chocolate is waxy, flavorless and should remain wrapped in its foil on the holiday table. Francine Segan, an author and chocolate maven, echoes the feeling, saying that her children, who were accustomed to high-quality chocolate, suggested that the Chanukah gelt they sampled be recycled or given to younger children.
Several chocolate makers, however, are bringing finer, tastier and richer dark chocolate to gelt. Cookbook author Leah Koenig, who has done several gelt tastings, wrote in Saveur that artisan chocolatiers from all over the world have started creating top-notch chocolate coins. Segan explains that “good chocolate needs to contain 100 percent cocoa product, without cheap substitutes or additives, along with quality sugar and flavorings. Just as we want to be feeding our children real food, we should be giving them real chocolate.” Koenig also looks for a high ratio of cocoa solids to the other products. For her, that means, “more flavor than sweet.” Heather Johnston started making her
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“Kosher Gelt for Grown-Ups” just two years ago at her Chicagobased Veruca Chocolates when she and some friends bemoaned the horrible quality of gelt. She felt called to remedy that by using a great tasting chocolate made by the California-based Guittard, which sources and selects its own beans to create an artisanal, luxury chocolate. For sophisticated palates, she offers two dark chocolate versions: with sea salt or with cocoa nibs. Johnston also searched for the right design for her mold. “I wanted the coins to look old, so I explored ancient coinage,” she says. Johnston selected an ancient Maccabean coin embossed with the Jerusalem Temple menorah similar to that issued by Mattathias Antigonus, a descendant of the Maccabees. Her coins are elegantly airbrushed with gold or silver. Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, Vt., packages its fine milk chocolate coins in festive Chanukah boxes. Rich and enticing squares of chocolate-covered toffee and almonds or almonds with sea salt nestle in its “Be Kind, Be Fair, Be Conscious, Be Well” A Gift of Goodness box. They are fair trade, organic and kosher. Divine Chocolate’s online store offers dark chocolate and milk chocolate coins produced through the farmer cooperative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. The phrase “Freedom and Justice” encircles the foil-embossed cocoa tree. A collaboration among Fair Trade Judaica, T’ruah and Divine offers easy ordering and supports the two nonprofits.
“The gelt we eat on Chanukah is a reminder of the freedom our people won many years ago,” Ilana Schatz wrote at the Fair Trade Judaica website. “Young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms with no pay and in unsafe conditions in the Ivory Coast.” Fair trade standards prohibit the use of child and slave labor, a problem particularly in West Africa. Several resources offer discussion prompts for Chanukah experiences. Lesson plans for adults and children (downloadable for free at Jews-onthechocolatetrail. org) assist educators in framing the issues of good Chanukah gelt through conversations about Jewish values. Hazon and partners have developed brief learning materials, titled “Spinning the Dreidel for Chocolate Gelt,” to encourage purchases of fair trade and kosher chocolate gelt. Selecting fair trade chocolate meshes with Chanukah’s spiritual messages about freedom and fairness. A prayer, “Eating [Fair Trade] Hanukkah Gelt,” by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, recognizes the potency of chocolate with Chanukah’s theme of enlightening the world’s dark places, an important spin on good gelt for Chanukah, especially for children. So say a prayer, then enjoy the improved chocolate gelt choices—they may not stay under wraps for long. —Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz is the author of On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, which was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its second printing. She lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world.)
Memories Chanukah 5775 It’s all about family with the Siegels
e consider ourselves to be a very lucky family and there is not a day that goes by that we take that for granted. Living around the corner from one another, we only have to drive an extra few miles to be with grandparents, aunts, uncles and many cousins. We are truly blessed. So, it is easy to report on our favorite Chanukah memories, because it is memories of simply being together. My favorite memory was when all five of my grandchildren were born and old enough to experience the joy of celebrating together. I bought all of my grandchildren a menorah unique to their interests. And once my youngest grandchild was two, on the first night of Chanukah, surrounded by great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, we lined the menorahs up on the table, and each child lit their own with big glowing smiles on their faces. It was a moment that will live with me forever. —Leslie Siegel My favorite memory was bittersweet. My twins were born premature and were living in the neonatal unit in Baltimore. They were born in November, so my husband, oldest daughter, and parents came up to join my newborns and me for their first Chanukah. We set up our menorah in the room I kept at the hospital and lit the candles together with my baby girl and boy next to us in their incubators. It was wonderful to have my family bring the holiday to me. —Shaye Arluk My favorite memory was in Washington, D.C. two days after my first child was born. We were living there at the time and so my parents came to spend the week with us to help out with my new baby. He was born the end of December so we lit the candles together every night and recited the blessings, truly appreciating the blessing of being together at such a momentous time in our lives. —Megan Zuckerman
A Siegel family Chanukah.
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CHANUKAH LATKES SOUFGANIYOT
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Megan Zuckerman, Leslie Siegel and Shaye Arluk.
jewishnewsva.org | Chanukah | December 8, 2014 | Jewish News | 23
JCC shares Tidewater Chanukah celebrations
he Simon Family JCC is kicking off a new initiative called Tidewater Celebrates Hannukah. The JCC will use social media to show a variety of area families and friends reciting the Chanukah blessings.
This project will involve young families, large families, Israeli families, friends, couples, singles, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and grandkids. Evan Levitt, development director of the Simon Family JCC, says, “We hope that Tidewater Celebrates Hannukah, will demonstrate that there are many different types of families, with many distinct backgrounds and experiences who are celebrating in the same way.” Starting the first night of Chanukah, share videos or pictures of family reciting the Chanukah blessings by visiting the JCC’s facebook page at www. facebook.com/simonfamilyj. Include names along with pictures and videos. For more information, contact Evan Levitt at 757-321-2337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Top your own’ party gives latkes a lift by Shannon Sarna
NEW YORK (JTA)—There’s nothing quite like that first night of Chanukah: a platter full of hot, crispy latkes and the accompanying applesauce and sour cream. It’s classic, delicious and a beloved comfort food for so many American Jews. But by the third or fourth night, I need a change of pace for my latkes. Or to be more specific, I crave some other toppings. While I love dipping my latkes into a healthy serving of rich sour cream, I also relish serving meat with latkes, specifically pulled brisket. You can use any beloved
recipe of choice. After the brisket has finished cooking and cooled, shred it with two forks. Throw a “top your own” latkes party and make an array of creative toppings —like the brisket or spicy cranberry applesauce recipes offered below—or tell your guests to bring their favorites. It’s fun to see how creative people can get. Some other potential latke toppings: grilled pastrami and mustard, sauerkraut, salsa, pickled jalapenos, beef chili and caramelized onions. The sky’s the limit. —Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher blog on MyJewishLearning.com.
CLASSIC POTATO LATKES Blessings be with you this festival of lights and always
Ingredients 12 medium-large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks 4 small onions, or 1 medium-large onion, cut into large chunks 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole ¾ to 1 cup flour 4 eggs, lightly beaten 1½ tablespoons salt ½ tablespoon pepper Vegetable oil for frying Preparation Using the shredding attachment of a food processor or a hand grater, coarsely great potatoes, onions and garlic. Place in a large bowl. Add flour, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until completely combined. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes. Drain excess liquid.
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Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Using your hands, make a small latke patty and squeeze out excess liquid again. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from pan and place on wire cooling rack placed on a baking sheet, which you can place in a warm oven until ready to serve. Makes 4 dozen latkes.
SPICY CRANBERRY APPLESAUCE Like it really spicy? Add more chilies or 1 tablespoon of Sriracha hot sauce for more heat.
This pulled brisket also makes for an amazing sandwich on a challah roll. You can cut the proportions in half, too. Ingredients 2- to 3-pound brisket 1 tablespoon salt ½ tablespoon freshly grated black pepper 2 teaspoons garlic powder 2 teaspoons onion powder 1 teaspoon dried parsley 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 can beer 1 can ginger ale 1 bottle red wine 4 ounces tomato paste 4 medium carrots, cut into medium size pieces 2 onions, cut into quarters
Ingredients 6 apples, peeled and diced 12 ounces fresh cranberries 1 cup water 2 tablespoons orange juice 2 tablespoons orange zest 1 ⁄3 cup sugar 2–3 small dried chilies Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil and cook for 3–4 minutes, until cranberries have softened and released juices. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15–20 minutes covered. Allow to cool slightly. Place applesauce in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Process until desired consistency. Serve chilled. Makes about 1½ quarts.
Preparation In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and parsley. Spread dry rub on both sides of brisket evenly. Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot on medium high heat. Sear the brisket on both sides “until the smoke detector goes off.” Remove meat and set aside. Using the remaining oil and “good bits” on the bottom of the pan, sauté carrots and onions, scraping the bottom until the veggies are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until thoroughly mixed. Put the brisket back in the pan, and cover with the bottle of red wine, beer and ginger ale. Place the entire pot with brisket into the oven, and cook for at least 3 to 4 hours, until meat is completely tender. When the meat is fork tender, remove the meat and set aside on a large cutting board. Let the sludge rise to the top of the pot liquid and skim it off. Strain out the carrots and onions and using a food processor, blend them with 1-2 cups of the cooking liquid, then return the blended mixture to the rest of the liquid and simmer to reduce slightly.
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On the cutting board using two forks, carefully shred the brisket into small strands. Add 1 to 2 cups of the pureed cooking liquid to the pulled brisket for additional moisture and flavor. Serve in a large bowl and allow guests to top latkes, or spoon small amounts of brisket on each latke for a more elegant presentation.
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Blessings be with you this festival of lights and always
Music hath charms to soothe December Dilemma by Hillel Kuttler
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From our family to yours, Teri and I wish you a Happy and Peaceful Hanukkah. Congressman& Mrs.
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PHILADELPHIA (JTA)—In text accompanying a new exhibition at this city’s National Museum of American Jewish History, Sammy Davis Jr. is quoted on why he converted to Judaism. “I became a Jew because I was ready and willing to understand the plight of a people who fought for thousands of years for a homeland,” the late entertainer said. What immediately follows is a curator’s observation: “Davis knew that becoming a Jew also meant recording Christmas songs.” The comment, while somewhat face-
tious, has a ring of truth to it: Some of the most popular Christmas tunes were written and/or sung by American Jews— notably the children of immigrants, like Irving Berlin, who composed the iconic White Christmas, or in Davis’ case, new to Judaism. It also encapsulates the theme of the exhibition, which carries the provocative title of ’Twas the Night Before Hanukkah.’ The exhibition, which highlights the music of Chanukah and Christmas, and the people behind some of the holidays’ songs, is auditory rather than visual, homey rather than museumy. No docu-
Chanukah 5775 ments or objects are displayed. Words are mostly absent from the walls. Standing is implicitly discouraged. The atmosphere in the small exhibition area better resembles one’s family room: comfy couches, upholstered chairs, carpeting and floor-to-ceiling windows; shelves containing books about the holidays (such as how Jewish teenagers can cope with Christmas pressures); record players for adults and children along with holiday albums; Legos from a Chanuikah kit. “It’s more of an experience than a traditional museum exhibit that’s artifact-heavy,” co-curator Ivy Weingram says. “I like to think of the songs as the artifacts.” Indeed, the main attractions are the iPads resting on the blue plastic-block end tables. Visitors can get cozy on the sofas and select a song to lose themselves in through the provided earphones. Enjoying the music while watching snow fall on Independence Hall this winter, it seems that all a visitor would lack to complete the indoor Americana ideal is a mug of hot cocoa. The iPads offer the Jewishly numerically significant 18 Chanukah songs and 18 Christmas songs; nearly all the singers and songwriters featured were Jews. Debbie Friedman’s The Latke Song and Sol Zim’s Maoz Tsur are among the 36, but far more fascinating are the crossovers. Eddie Cantor (born Edward Israel Iskowitz) sings The Only Thing I Want for Christmas. Benny Goodman performs Santa Claus Came in the Spring. Opera great Richard Tucker, trained as a cantor at a Brooklyn synagogue, has O Little Town of Bethlehem. And the non-Jews doing Chanukah? Try Woody Guthrie (Hanukkah Dance), The Indigo Girls (Happy Joyous Hanukkah) and Don McLean (Dreidel). What in the name of assimilation is going on here?
“All holidays, in many ways, are cultural constructions,” explains Josh Kun, a University of Southern California professor and co-curator of the exhibition with Weingram. The exhibition grew out of the 2012 release by the Jewish organization Kun cofounded, the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, of a two-CD set from which the museum exhibition takes its name. The CD is subtitled “The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.” As if to underscore the point, the society’s website describes the CD set as the first effort at presenting 20th-century American music that’s most closely identified with the two holidays’ dual role. The CD’s cover, also displayed on an exhibition wall, shows a circa-1940s photograph of a teenage girl lighting a chanukiah while her presumed sister and mother exchange wrapped gifts beside a Christmas tree topped by a star—a Star of David. The exhibition’s goal is “to raise the big questions of Jewish American pop culture: questions of identity and of assimilation,” Kun says. “Chanukah grew in power alongside the dominance of Christmas.” To Kun, the Jews putting their musical talents to work in this manner were neither surrendering to nor fighting America’s overwhelming Christmas tide but rather riding it. In so doing, he says, they were embracing their new American identities. To them, Christmas was a national holiday, not a Christian one. That’s why, Kun says, their songs tended to celebrate the seasonal nature of Christmas: the chestnuts, reindeer and snow, but not the manger. That approach echoed Hollywood’s Jewish moguls churning out films high on mainstream and not ethnic—and certainly not Jewish— America. “One of the great Jewish tactics in
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American life,” Kun says, “is that Jews do America better than anyone: ‘You want Christmas? We’ll give you Christmas.’ ” Along with the musical offerings and the CDs’ liner notes, from whence the Davis quotation comes, the iPads provide holiday-centric YouTube clips like Adam Sandler performing The Hanukkah Song, Joel Fleischman bringing home a Christmas tree in the television series Northern Exposure and the Ramones onstage belting out Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight). Not that the museum’s traditional offer-
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ings are ignored in the exhibition, which runs until March 1. Printed pamphlets and the iPads offer a guided tour of all Chanukah-related artifacts elsewhere in the building, like a chanukiah brought to America in 1881 by an immigrant from Lodz, Poland, a 1948 photograph showing Rabbi Chaim Lipschitz teaching Philadelphia children the Hanukkah blessings; a 1962 letter explaining Saks Fifth Avenue’s lack of Chanukah decorations. Visitors can also see Irving Berlin’s piano—and the sheet music for White Christmas.
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Chanukah 5775 First Person
A modest proposal
Let’s find another gift-giving holiday by Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
t’s that happy, happy time of year when store windows call out “Happy Chanukah” in a blizzard of white, blue, silver and gold right next to the “Merry Christmas” and “Season’s Greetings” banners, when menorahs are strung across boulevards after every third Santa-in-his-sleigh. And what could be wrong with that? After all, Chanukah is Jewish Christmas, isn’t it? That’s what most Americans think, and more than a few American Jews. They think that not so much because Chanukah falls close to Christmas, but because its proximity to Christmas in a nation that has made Christmas a month-long obsession has inflated Chanukah into Christmas’s Jewish cousin, the kosher icing on the merchandising cake. I operate very happily in the dominant culture, but the way we celebrate Chanukah is such a massive cave-in that I think it is time to put it in its proper place among Jewish observances. Chanukah is a minor holiday that commemorates the victory in 165 b.c.e. of outnumbered Jewish forces over the army of the oppressive Greco-Syrian empire that ruled Palestine at that time. It’s important enough for Hallel, psalms of praise, to be recited at services during its eight days and for a passage summarizing the Jews’ victory and praising God’s role in it to be added to the prayer of thanks in the central section of the service, and it also merits special Torah and haftarah readings. Its rituals are lovely, its games fun, its songs delightful and its signature foods way too yummy. But in no way does its prominence as a holiday begin to approach that of Christmas for Christians. Chanukah gets in line behind the High Holy Days; the three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, which are mandated by Torah; and the other two observances associated with books of the Bible, Purim and Tisha b’Av. The
only thing Christmas and Chanukah have in common is their establishment near the winter solstice. Yet as far as most American Jews are concerned, Chanukah is a yearly focal point for Jewish identity. More American Jews light Chanukah candles than attend Yom Kippur services; only the Passover seder is a more popular Jewish observance. And that isn’t because the candles are pretty or the latkes are crisp or we’re proud of the Maccabees. Chanukah is a big hairy deal because it falls in December and we’re competing with Christmas. If the Jews had rededicated the Temple in Tammuz instead of Kislev, there wouldn’t be a single Jewish kid asking for a Chanukah bush or bragging to Gentile friends, “Yeah, well, I get presents for eight days!” While the giving of money at Chanukah has a long history, American Jews began Christmas-style gift giving only after the practice of giving presents at Christmas took hold in this country, and that happened pretty late, not until the large wave of immigration from Germany during the mid-19th century. But once Christmas became the merchants’ delight, there was no turning back. As Christmas emerged from homes and churches into the public arena and liberal American Jews wove themselves into mainstream American life, Jewish parents found it increasingly difficult to fight the holiday’s seductiveness. They felt they needed to show, and still need to show their kids that our holidays are just as colorful, just as tuneful, just as tasty, just as much fun and just as joyous as Christmas. But we don’t need to give gifts at Chanukah to make Chanukah special. The story, the songs, the food, the lights are special enough. If we were to quit giving gifts at
songs, the food, the lights are special.
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Chanukah, we’d no longer be telling our kids (and each other) that Chanukah is just as good as Christmas. We’d be saying that Chanukah is good, period and there’s a world of difference between those two statements. Now I certainly would be Scroogewitz, not to mention un-American, if I suggested that Jews do without a gift giving holiday altogether. My personal vote is for Rosh Hashanah, a much more important holiday, and joyous in its own right — not to mention the birthday of the world. Or if the first of the Days of Awe seems too solemn for giving presents, what about Sukkot, a highly decorative holiday that celebrates God’s gift of the fall harvest after we emerge from the relative somberness of Yom Kippur? Or Shavuot, when we mark the giving of the greatest gift the Jewish people ever received: the Torah? I offer these alternatives because, heck, I like giving and receiving presents as much as the next person. My husband and I have this little tradition: on the eighth night of Chanukah, after we light all the candles and sing the blessings and put the chanukiah in the window, we step outside and look at it for a minute. It’s a beautiful sight. It doesn’t need tinsel. —Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill lives in Virginia Beach. She is the editor of The Jewish Woman’s Book of Wisdom: Thoughts From Prominent Jewish Women on Spirituality, Identity, Sisterhood, Family, and Faith.
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Chanukah 5775 What the shmita year can teach us about Chanukah by Dasee Berkowitz
JERUSALEM ( JTA)—When the Maccabees climbed the stairs of the Temple in Jerusalem, they lit the menorah with the
knowledge that there was only enough oil to last for one day. Only a miracle could turn oil into a renewable resource. And the future of the planet urges us not to depend on miracles.
The faith and initiative shown by the Maccabees can inspire us this year to take greater action, especially during a Chanukah that falls during the shmita year. Shmita is the biblically ordained law that has roots in agriculture and building a just society. It’s a call for the land of Israel to rest every seventh year, for debts to be forgiven and for slaves to be released. Jewish environmental activists, communal leaders and educators (from Hazon, Siah, Teva Ivri among others) have created robust platforms (conferences, papers, websites and synagogue task forces) to help us consider what shmita can mean for us today living in a mainly non-agrarian society. They have confronted us to think about our mission as a people and how caring for God’s earth is central to that mission. They have developed practical ideas that range from the personal and communal to the national. On the personal and communal levels, they encourage us to create more energy-efficient homes and institutions, to place recycling centers at the entrance to our institutions that serve as eco-mezuzahs, and to get outside more (even in winter) to appreciate the majesty of the natural world. On a national level in Israel, Knesset member Ruth Calderon and the minister for social welfare have created a financial recovery program to help needy families settle their debts, and others have created online time banks that give volunteers an opportunity to contribute their time and skill to the needy in our community. All of these are a part of an initiative to infuse new life into an ancient (and sometimes seemingly antiquated) law. How can a shmita consciousness this Chanukah help open up another dimension of the holiday? Here are some ideas: 1. Use less electricity: Different from Shabbat candles, we are not meant to use the light of the Chanukah candles for practical purposes. Encouraged to “l’rotam b’lvad” (literally, “only see them”), we slow down and are fully present to remind ourselves of the miracle of the oil that lasted longer than it naturally should. While the
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Chanukah candles are burning, turn off all the lights in your home and think about renewable energy sources as you view the small flame. Save electricity for those 30 minutes, and when the candles burn down and you turn on the artificial lights, have a greater consciousness about the kinds of energy you use and think about switching to the miracle of solar power. 2. Consume less and celebrate more: Many analysts agree that one of the major problems with our ecological crisis is overconsumption. Americans comprise only 5 percent of the population of the world but consume 20 percent of its resources (food, water and energy.) In the Jewish community, our affluence contributes to this trend. Instead of placing our emphasis on the material -- presents and more presents -- let’s think about how we can celebrate in a more creative way. Songs, games, gestures of love and friendship are free. Make these things the center of your Chanukah celebration this year; it can be a model for moderation in consumption that we exercise for the rest of the year. 3. Forgive debts: Whether you have actually lent money to someone in the last three months, this is the year to forgive these debts. But on a more spiritual level, consider how you can be more forgiving this Chanukah. If there is anyone you hold a grudge against or think you are owed something from, forgive them. 4. Appreciate nature more: Especially in the winter, it is harder to appreciate nature when we are cooped up inside. This Chanukah, make a point to go for a walk (just dress warmly), breathe the air, take delight in a small part of your garden or a tree on the street. 5. Buy fair trade chocolate gelt: A shmita consciousness considers what “releasing slaves” can mean for us in our day-to-day lives. And while we might have a Pavlovian reaction to those golden coins in a mesh yellow bag, the chocolate industry is
Chanukah 5775 known to use child labor in their production of chocolate. This year, think about purchasing fair trade chocolate.
who really need it. Cut down on your gift budget by half and increase your tzedakah budget by the same.
6. Rest: The shmita year calls for the land to rest and can inspire us to think about what rest means for us on a personal level. Consider the difference between how we spend the holiday – rushing from party to party while balancing work/family/friends/ volunteer commitments. At the end of the day, all we want to do is “tune out” (with Facebook, email and TV). Think about “tuning in” to the kind of rest that will replenish you as shmita will replenish the earth. At candle-lighting, offer a short meditation that reflects on your day and sets an intention for the hours ahead, eat healthier food (bake your latkes, don’t fry them!), read and sleep.
8. Publicize: One of the Chanukah mitzvot is “persumei d’nisa,” to make the miracle of Chanukah public by placing your chanukiah in your window (or even outside your home.) This Chanukah, take your environmental awareness to the streets and share what you are doing with others to have a shmita consciousness.
7. Share: When land lies fallow during the shmita year, the fields are open for the needy to partake. This mitzvah is as countercultural as it gets for westerners living in a capitalist society as it confronts us with the notion that nothing really belongs to us. This Chanukah, share with others
So as the days get shorter and the nights grow longer, as we spend more time huddled indoors disconnected from the natural world that surrounds us, and as artificial light masks the darkness, let’s not forget about the majesty of the created world. When we strike the match to light our Chanukah candles this year, we are inspired by the spirit of the Maccabees to renew our energy to create positive change for our planet. —Dasee Berkowitz is a Jewish educational consultant and writer living in Jerusalem. She is a frequent contributor to JTA, the Forward and Kveller.com.
The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy presents
Delancey to Doughnuts: A Chanukah Walking Tour Sunday, Dec. 21, 10:45 am New York, N.Y.—The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy will celebrate the holiday season with Delancey to Doughnuts: A Lower East Side Chanukah Tour. The tour starts at Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshe Brzezan (Stanton Street Shul), an over 80-year-old tenement style building and site of old world warmth and tradition. Shul ‘elder’ and board member Elyssa Sampson will be on hand to share the dramatic history of this charming site. Next, the group will visit The Essex Street Market, built in 1938 by Fiorello LaGuardia in an effort to remove pushcarts from city streets. His administration wanted to de-emphasize the ethnic character of poor neighborhoods. The last stop on the tour is Kehila
Kedosha Janina, a synagogue which dates back to 1906. It is now the world’s only remaining active Romaniote tradition synagogue, and a museum dedicated to Greek-Jewish history. Delancey to Doughnuts wraps up with a coffee and soufganiot (old world-style jelly doughnuts). Admission is $23 for adults and $21 for seniors and students. Pre-registration is recommended at http://www.lesjc.org/ calendar.htm#122114 or by calling 212374-4100. An additional $2 will be charged for tickets purchased on the day of the tour. Tour meets at Congregation B’nai Anshe Brzezan, located at 180 Stanton Street (between Clinton and Attorney Streets).
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Memories Chanukah 5775
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Coplon family Chanukah party. Front row: Sylvia Benas, “’Jimmie” Semel, Ruth Fine, Rose Coplon (party founder and my grandmother), Sadie Leibowitz and Marion Baydush. Back row: Sidney Coplon, Herschel Coplon, Oscar Coplon, Selma Coplon, Tilton Coplon, Julius Coplon. and Louis Coplon.
A big family party
fter World War II was over and her boys came home, my grandmother decided to have a big family party. Chanukah just
seemed to be a good time to do it. It’s a happy holiday and was well suited for her large family. My grandmother was a single mom with 12 children—six boys and six girls. A good time was had by all. So good, in fact, that the tradition is still going on as an annual affair, and we’re
Joan and Al Benas.
approaching our Diamond Jubilee. Our family has grown over the years and many have moved away, but the bulk of us have either remained in Tidewater or the DC area, so party headquarters alternates between the two locations. We have far flung members appear from L.A., Chicago, St. Louis, Boston and Florida. Of the original 12 children, two remain, “Jimmie” Semel of Norfolk and Sidney Coplon of Silver Spring, Md. We have lost many, but we have gained so many more. We are well into our fourth generation. We have in-laws and out-laws, and, just like America, the family is so much better for the additions. Besides, after 30 or 40 years, who can remember which is which? Every party starts with a maariv and Havdalah service, followed by a toast to those who are no longer with us, using a fine single malt scotch or bourbon (only the best for our ancestors), lighting the Chanukah candles (takes a few menorahs just to accommodate the small children), a real “groaning board” buffet, and a re-acquaintance with relatives (“whose kid is that?”—“they’re how old?”). We’re still having a good time. This year, in DC. —Al Benas (original little kid) and Joan Benas (out-law, circa 1960)
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Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill
serving Tidewater’s unaff iliated Jews and spiritual seekers as
What a Mensch! has produced a limited number of life-sized 5-foot Mensches and is hard at work on a Passover book titled, The AfikoMensch. The Mensch on a Bench is available at a variety of retailers, including Texture in Ghent.
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hat started as a small Kickstarter campaign based on the insight of a five-year-old Jewish child, is about to become one of the “must-have” gifts for Jewish and interfaith families this holiday season. Sold out last Chanukah in just 10 days, The Mensch on a Bench is the brainchild of former toy marketing executive turned entrepreneur, Neal Hoffman. The Mensch on a Bench doll and accompanying book introduce children to the story and traditions of Chanukah, while emphasizing the fine characteristics of a Mensch—a good and honorable person. “The success of The Mensch on a Bench is a dream come true for me and my family,” says Hoffman. “So many Jewish and interfaith children and families love the holiday season and appreciate all of the wonderful Christmas traditions. We also know that so many Jewish families like ours have been eager to bring home a fun and warm character and story that can become their very own family tradition for many years to come.” The Mensch on a Bench is a 12’’ plush doll with an accompanying hardcover storybook that explains Chanukah from the
X-Large Eggs - $1.49/dozen view of “Moshe” the Mensch. The book tells the story of Moshe the Mensch, who was in the temple when Judah and the Maccabees won an important war. With only enough oil for one night, Moshe volunteered to watch over the Menorah while everyone else was sleeping, what a Mensch! The Mensch on a Bench doll holds the Shammash (leader) candle and is “magically” moved during each of the eight nights of Chanukah to watch over the Menorah. For this Chanukah, Hoffman added new pages to the book to teach children the prayers and how to play dreidel. For those who can’t get enough of the Mensch, Hoffman
Gail Juren of Texture with a life-size Mensch.
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Chanukah Candles • Menorahs • Gelt Available for Sale Gabriele Malvasia - $10.99 (750 ml) Joyvin–Red or White - $7.99 (750 ml) Baron Herzog–Merlot Selection - $8.99 (750 ml) Baron Herzog–White Zinfandel - $6.49 (750 ml) Bartenura Moscato - $10.99 (750 ml)
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Memories Chanukah 5775
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Chanukah with cousins
have so many fond childhood memories of Chanukah. My favorite memories are not any gifts that I received, but rather the time that I spent with my family. I have vivid memories of lighting the menorah, singing the familiar tunes and being together with my cousins. We would play dreidel, open gifts, eat latkes and do all the things that most young, Jewish boys and girls do at Chanukah time. I think the one thing that made our experience different is that since all of us went to Jewish day school when we were young, we Rabbi Gershon Litt (far right) with his cousins. had a shared experience that helped to create our passion and solidify the importance of why we were doing what we were doing. My cousins and I did not play the normal games that most kids played. We played shul. I was the rabbi and my cousin, Greg, was the cantor, and my cousin Risa was the Gabbai. My older cousin would wrap shoestrings on my arms and put a towel around me and tell me what I needed to do. I believe that every Jewish child deserves the opportunity to go to a Jewish day school and I hope that more Jewish parents see the need to give their children the same opportunities that I had. There is no question that those precious childhood moments and the passion that I received from my Jewish day school education set the foundation for who I am today. —Rabbi Gershon Litt
Build your own beer menorah
et in the spirit of the holidays with the annual “Build Your Own Beer Menorah” national Facebook competition beginning with the release of the 5th Annual He’brew Gift Pack®, which is in stores now. The Gift Pack® includes eight He’brew® beers, a custom glass, Chanukah candles and a hand-painted “Build Your Own” Beer Menorah. Candles Won’t Be The Only Thing Getting Lit this holiday season! Images of masterpieces can be added to Shmaltz’s Facebook page for a chance to win one of four chosen prizes.
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Memories Chanukah 5775 Our “Chanukah House”
e live in Olde Towne, Portsmouth. Some of the houses in Olde Towne date back to before the Revolutionary War, making our neighborhood a popular visitor attraction. Every year there is a Holiday Open House Tour in December. One year, tired of being continually asked to decorate and open our house for the “Christmas” tour, we said yes, but it would be a “Chanukah House.” Members of our congregation helped to ‘decorate.’ Everyone contributed chanukiot and dreidels for our special displays. Temple Sinai members volunteered to cook and serve latkes to each tour group. Religious school children taught groups how to play dreidel and demonstrated how to light the menorah. Our house was filled with wonderful aromas and light, but most importantly we were able to really educate people—more than 400 visited our house—about the true meaning of this holiday of freedom and dedication. —Kitty Wolf
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Chanukah 5775 Chanukah on three continents While you and your family are at home lighting the menorah, the gelt you give to the 2015 United Jewish Federation of Tidewater Annual Campaign is also providing light. Brightening lives around the world.
Chanukah in Germany
Your gelt is bringing food and comfort to Jewish elderly in Eastern Europe, trauma counseling to families in Southern Israel, Jewish education for children from Minsk to Mumbai. Your gelt helps the vulnerable in your Tidewater community, as well as in hundreds of cities and towns in the U.S. and around the globe. So this Chanukah give what gelt you can. It will brighten your holiday to see how far it goes. Happy Chanukah & Thank You!
Books and driedel from Germany.
Growing up in Germany in the early 1930s, I have several fond memories of Chanukah as a child. One year my mother gave me two books, which I still have today: Blessings and Prayers for Children and the other one was a Jewish Trivia book. I also have the little wooden dreidle she gave me. My parents, brother and I would play the traditional dreidle game using nuts in the shells and enjoy potato latkes. —Hilde Deutsch
A South African Chaunkah Celebrating Chanukah during my youth in South Africa was a little different to the way we celebrate today in the U.S.A. I remember warm summer evenings, the aroma of freshly made Latkes filling our home. We sang the songs we had learned in Hebrew School, about the miracle of Chanukah, as we lit the Menorahs. Thereafter, we were very excited to receive Chanukah Gelt, real coins from our parents and grandparents. It was not our tradition for children to receive purchased gifts. —Joan Joffe
Sharing with neighbors It’s hard to choose one Chanukah memory, but it was always fun sharing the holiday traditions with our non-Jewish neighbors. We would invite them over to light Chanukah candles with us one night of the holiday and teach them how to play dreidle. —Carin Simon
Wii! My favorite Chanukah memory is when my parents surprised us and got us a Wii for Chanukah. It was the best gift ever! —Nate Simon (age 7)
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Nate Simon, Carin Simon, Joan Joffe and Hilde Deutsch.
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Chanukah - dec 8, 2014