[yshavurah] Happy Hanukkah

  • From: Adamsmicki@xxxxxxx
  • To: yshavurah@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 9 Dec 2004 10:13:31 EST

My own family never celebrated any of the Jewish holidays, but I  thought 
others might like to read this story.  I'd read it  before, and this came to me 
today through Chicken Soup for the Soul.   Enjoy!

Connecting the  Generations 
By Gina Klonoff  
A cold drizzle was creating puddles  around my feet as I made my way home 
from the Seattle Public  Library.  It was an afternoon in December 1940, soon 
after my arrival  in the United States.  Under my coat I was protecting a copy 
 Anne of Green Gables, which I had just checked out for the third  time.  
Despite my limited English, I was determined to discover how  Anne met the 
challenge of adapting to an unfamiliar environment, mirroring  my own new life 
The dim, gloomy street reflected my mood  as the faint lights from Christmas 
trees, already visible behind the  windows, reminded me that tonight was the 
first night of Hanukkah.  I  stopped and leaned against a wet lamppost 
recalling images of past  Hanukkah nights and of my now fragmented family. 
I was back in our Vienna apartment.   My parents, Grandfather Mendel with his 
dignified beard, Grandmother Tova  in her blue silk dress and pearl necklace, 
and Cousin Bertha, her raven  hair pulled into a bun, were all gathered 
around our silver Hanukkah  menorah.  My great-grandfather, a silversmith in 
Poland, had  crafted it for the marriage of his eldest daughter.  In every  
generation since, it had brightened my family's Hanukkah  celebrations.  It 
not only the victory of the Maccabees,  but also the invincible spirit of 
Judaism and the continuity of our  family. 
A hundred years later and six thousand  miles away, I still delighted in the 
thought of its rich silver patina,  with lovely rosebuds and exquisite leaves 
and stems engraved on its nine  branches. 
A dump truck pulled up and splashed me  from the feet up, shattering my 
reverie.  "Where did everything go?"  I mumbled to myself. 
But I knew where everything had  gone.  Grandfather had been arrested on 
Kristallnacht and  taken to Dachau, where he was killed.  Grandmother died of a 
heart  attack soon after the Nazis had looted their apartment and destroyed 
their  stationery store.  Bertha, arrested by the British trying to escape  to 
Palestine on an illegal boat, was interned in a detention camp.   But the 
Hanukkah menorah?  Since it was forbidden to take any  valuable artifacts out 
of the 
country, its fate was a  mystery. 
It was dark by the time I arrived  home.  My father was already back from the 
synagogue, and my mother  was peeling potatoes.  She laid aside one large 
potato and began to  grind the others for latkes.  When I asked her what the 
extra potato  was for, she answered, "That will be our Hanukkah  menorah." 
I shook my head in sorrow.  With so  many people and things vanished from my 
life, was our precious heirloom to  be replaced by a potato?  Was that to be 
another new custom in our  new country?  Mother hollowed out two shallow 
grooves on opposite  ends of the potato and pressed a small candle into one.  
was  about to light the second candle when there was a knock on the front  
door.  When he opened it, a mailman thrust a package into Father's  hand.  
"Special delivery," he said.  "Sign here."  
The package was covered with foreign  stamps, which turned out to be from 
Palestine.  There was no return  name or address anywhere on the box.  We were 
dumbfounded.  Who  could have sent us a package from the Holy Land?  With 
unsteady  hands, we tore away the paper.  The first thing we saw was a sealed  
envelope addressed to my parents.  Father opened it and read the  letter aloud 
Dear Cantor and Mrs. Schiffman, 
After the Nazis looted Mrs. Schiffman's  mother's apartment, she died from a 
heart attack.  The concierge went  into her apartment and found a package 
hidden in the closet.  The  concierge was a Christian woman who knew the 
She took the  package to Bertha just before she left for Palestine.  On the 
boat to  Haifa, Bertha told me the story.  She said if the British catch one  
us, the other must mail the package to the address inside.  I was  lucky to 
escape after we landed, helped by the Hagganah.  I had  plenty of trouble in 
the beginning and I am sorry to say, I forgot about  the package.  Yesterday, I 
found it.  Please excuse me for this  long wait. 
Bertha's  Chavarah   
The three of us pried open the box.   Inside, wrapped in torn tissue paper, 
lay a black and white horsehair  cushion.  As Mother lifted it out of the box, 
we all wondered,  What was so important about this cushion that Bertha had 
risked so much  to ensure its safety?  Father examined it from all angles, even 
sniffed it, and pressed his hands into the bristly cloth.  He stopped  
"Quick, Marta.  Get me some  scissors."  Mother found her sewing basket and 
handed him her small  scissors.  Father carefully began to snip open the 
stitches along one  side of the cushion.  With a mass of straw littering the 
he  reached in and pulled out the still shining, so familiar, silver Hanukkah  
I could barely contain myself.  Our  beautiful menorah had returned just in 
time for the first night of  Hanukkah in our new home.  For a moment, we were 
stunned, and then we  all started talking at once.  How did it get out of 
Austria?   Who would have risked smuggling it out of the country?  We assumed  
Bertha had hidden it in the cushion, taken it on the train across the  border 
onto the boat.  Then she made sure that, in the event she  could not carry out 
her intentions, someone else would.  
Father put the menorah on the  table and transferred the candle from the 
potato into its rightful  place.  He lit the shammas, which he held up high, 
recited  the b'rakhah over the Hanukkah candles.  When he began to sing  
Sheheheyanu in honor of the first night, mother and I joined in  with fervor.  
me, the blessing that night applied to more than  just the beginning of 
Hanukkah.  It also acknowledged the miracle  that had reconnected me with my 
I felt a surge of hope and  optimism.  For the first time in a long time, 
things did not look  quite so bleak; something precious had come back to me.  
fact  that it had arrived when it did was a special omen.  
Today, the silver Hanukkah menorah  stands on the sideboard in our dining 
room.  My older son, David,  knows that one day it will stand in his home, and 
later, in that of his  daughter, Anna, and then in that of one of her children, 
and down the  generations.  Its flickering candles will symbolize the 
continuity of  our family, as well as the inextinguishable flame of  Judaism. 

Other related posts:

  • » [yshavurah] Happy Hanukkah