It’s Chanukah, dammit!

I almost can’t believe how upset I got today when I realized: I’ve done it again. Moved into a town without Jews.  I couldn’t find my menorah yesterday–must be somewhere–and wasn’t counting on finding one in Sequim, but after going into both supermarkets, a Hallmark store, and three drug stores, I realized that I wasn’t going to find Chanukah candles either. I almost cried, walking past Salvation Army ladies eight times, biting my tongue to keep from yelling at them (after all they are not the homophobic Salvation Army, they’re just earning a little cash) then past all of the christmas sugar and glitter, and overhearing the phrase christmas spirit umpteen times.

It’s hard to be a Jew anywhere and it’s so easy to forget that it’s hard by opting out of the everyday rituals, settling for simple symbols: going to schul  to hear Kol Nidre, eating matzoh during Pesach, and lighting the Chanukah candles in the dark of winter. But these small things are my absolute minimum; I count on them. And I feel angry and betrayed and alone when I can’t follow these small strains of my heritage.  Yet I was surprised at how hurt I felt today, wandering in the desert, looking for light that isn’t here.

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4 Responses to It’s Chanukah, dammit!

  1. Linda Spalding says:

    My heart ached upon reading the unavailability of your traditional items that enrich and kindle your spirit. I get why you hurt so, the last sentence sums it up. I could relate to your wandering in the desert; however, the looking for a light that isn’t there, that is agony. It is these meaningful symbols and rituals that kindle our inner light. I will light my candle and as I gaze into the flame I will bring you into the light that connects each of us. Thank you Risa for sharing your light.

  2. Robin says:

    OK, it is a little too modern to be a tradition, but does this song raise your spirits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TxoDx_U84U ? I think that traditions like this are how we keep in mind the people we celebrated them with, whether they are across the world or only with us in spirit now.

  3. Mark says:

    The light is always there, here’s another opportunity to see it from a different angle which some could say is a blessing. If you were here in NYC, lucky me, because perhaps, I’d be, along with other friends and family, watching you prepare that amazing brisket and latke Chanukah dinner and then get to eat it alongside you and your big love! Next year perhaps? We could walk east on Houston, catch a kinish, a movie, afterwards stop at Russ & Daughters for chopped liver (me), caviar (you). Before you fly back to the emerald forest, we’ll pack up a salami and get a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s, which should really fix the problem for at least a year. In the meantime, make that brisket or drive to Seattle for gravlax baby, laughing all the way. Ha Ha!

  4. I saw your makeshift menorah on FB and thought, I wonder if this was the way it used to be, if maybe this way the way the Jews used to have to do it all the time, maybe this is more authentic. somehow yours seemed more real, less commercialized. It was very touching.

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