Image credit to Unsplash: element5digital
By Robert Cohen, Senior Communications Manager
I love Hanukkah. Or is it ‘Chanukkah’, or possibly ‘Hanukah’, or maybe ‘Chanukah’?
Apparently, there are 16 spelling variation on the English version of the Hebrew word for ‘rededication’. You can read all about Hanukkah in this guide.
I love Hanukkah, and these days the festival gets plenty of attention beyond the Jewish community, even though it’s counted as a minor festival in the Jewish calendar. I suspect it draws so much attention because it’s family friendly, home based, and close to Christmas.
However, there’s lots more to Hanukkah than pretty lights and fried food. The themes in the central story are complex and highly resonant to today’s world: national identity, religious zealotry, cultural oppression, military occupation, resilience and resistance. Like all religious festivals, Hanukkah is open to endless inspiration and interpretation.
I love Hanukkah and so does all my family. Nothing beats lighting the candles, playing dreidel, and eating (too many) fried potato cakes (latkes) with apple sauce and sour cream on the side. Our older son, Solomon, has become the Chief Chef at this time of year, while his older sisters and younger brother are left to grate the potatoes and chop the onions. The real skill (so I’m told) all takes place in the frying pan. I’m usually left with the washing up, which is fine by me. I know my place.
There are plenty of formal educational resources to teach about Hanukkah and lots of great children’s storybooks. However, one resource continues to stand the test of time. I’m talking about the TV cartoon classic ‘Rugrats Chanukkah Special’, first broadcast in 1996 (the year our own first ‘rugrat’ was born). The old VHS cassette tape we had disintegrated long ago, but thankfully the show’s now available on Amazon Prime.
So, every year, now in digital clarity, we sit down ‘religiously’ to watch Grandma Minka and Grandpa Boris, and Boris’ arch-rival Shlomo, telling our ancient story of national liberation led by the brave Maccabee warriors against the mighty Assyrian Greek empire in 165 BCE. The victory is achieved with a little help from the ‘Maccababies’: Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil plus pre-schooler Angelica.
It’s funny, surprisingly informative and gives a snapshot of late 20th century (American) Jewish life. My favourite line comes from Grandpa Boris who says, as he eats another fried potato cake: “The miracle is that these things have been clogging our arteries for two thousand years, and yet, we survive!”
Let me wish a ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to all my Jewish Co-op colleagues this year. Or is Happy Chanukkah’, or possibly ‘Happy Hanukah’, or maybe ‘Happy Channukkahh’?