Last night, at book club at the Rankin-Frakt household in Alta, fifteen of us celebrated with a potluck holiday party. Among the cheese and crackers, Fritos and guacamole, crustini and salmon spread, Janna served fried potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts, the traditional fare of Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
I was honored that Ms. Janna asked me to light the Hannukah candles. She showed me the proper way to do so and said the prayers. We started with the “helper” flame — known as the shamash — which is used to light the other candles, one for each night of the Jewish holiday.
Arthur and Janna have the sweetest menorah; from the brochure she shared with me, I learned it’s actually called a hanukkiah. Their candelabrum is a ceramic rendition of Eastern European synagogues and is dedicated to the community members of those churches lost in the Holocaust.
Once the four candles were lit, it was absolutely beautiful. I thought, “Oh I need to grab my phone to take a photo of it.”
Well, we started our book discussion and I missed the chance.
The book of the month, The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer, was appropriately chosen; the main character is a young Hungarian Jew who travels to Paris in 1937 to study architecture, falls in love, and ends up back in Budapest as part of a forced-labor military unit. Some of his family survives the War; we learn in the epilogue that the novel is based on Orringer’s own history.
The always erudite group shared its experiences of anti-Semitism and prejudice of all types. It was an amazing and personal discussion.
The photo I ended up taking certainly isn’t perfect but I like it anyway.
Instead, as part of that small taste of the Festival of Lights, I have a memory of candid sharing that captures what my brief research says is Hanukkah’s real message.
According to Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, “Hannukah celebrates the fact that there is more possibility and potential – in us, in others, and in our world — than we almost ever allow ourselves to imagine.”
What a gift to participate in this 3,000-year-old tradition. Thank you, Janna and Arthur.
And happy holidays, everyone!