I don't live close enough to my family to celebrate Hanukkah with them. My husband is not Jewish, so although he has been known to participate in some celebrations he doesn't really share in them. But I do not celebrate alone this season, and last night was an example of how the joy is spread.
Kenny Altman and I were invited to the Sequoias-an assisted living complex in San Francisco-by Hilda Richards-a long time congregant of Beth Sholom-to lead a Hanukkah celebration. This was a return engagement, as we led a Passover seder there this past April. Many of the participants brought their hanukkiahs, and we started the program with candle lighting. We then led some spirited singing of various Hanukkah songs. I gave a little talk about Hanukkah, speaking from the heart about how the rituals of our Jewish practice keeps us in touch with the the cycle of the seasons as well as giving us a way to renew an awareness of ourselves and our place in the world. I talked about Hanukkah as our culture's, our tribe's version of bringing light to a time of darkness. I also brought up the theme of dedication--the actual meaning of the world Hanukkah--as a reminder to look at where we need to dedicate our hearts and minds.
It was a short program--just a half-hour, but it was nice to share the time with these people who, while I don't know them personally, are part of my greater community. Their voices, their smiles, their spirits feed my soul.
Then it was off to the Beth Sholom community celebration held at the Jewish Community High School. Here, I was able to party with my "mishpachah," my extended family. We had latkes and music and dancing. The kids prepared a little play and a dance performance. There were more than a few little ones who were celebrating their first Hanukkah of their lives. They won't remember this, but we will remember for them. The room was filled with joy.
Recently, I was asked why do I involve myself in Beth Sholom and the greater Jewish community to the extent that I do--what do I get from it. I think of last night and I know the answer.
For today gift, here's a song from one of my favorite songwriters, Tom Lehrer--with a bonus feature at the end. Enjoy....