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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book A Right Turn
by Maister, Fredricka
Right Book

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Group: Hanukkah
Language: English



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I must have been undergoing some kind of internal shift, an unconscious return to my Jewish roots, because, for the first time in over 25 years, I decided to celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

I took down the menorah, a menorah from the old country that I inherited from my mother’s mother, from its high shelf next to my antique Russian lacquered box. For the eight nights of Chanukah, I “religiously” kindled the candles of the menorah and recited the appropriate blessings which, lucky for me, were written on the box of candles. Unfortunately, memory failed me and I discovered after the holiday was over that I had not lit the candles in the proper order. I started at the center of the menorah, moving first right and then left.

The brightly lit colored candles illuminating the darkness of my kitchen set off an unexpected outpouring of memories and images of the Chanukahs of my childhood. My grandmother’s menorah on the stove around which the three generations of our family gathered. The smell of latkes frying. The sugar cookies which we helped my mother bake using cookie cutters in the shape of menorahs, Jewish stars and dreidels. The excitement of opening the presents. The traditional Chanukah songs, "I Have a Little Dreidel" and "Rock of Ages," sung off key. I recalled, with a grimace, how, decked out in orange crepe paper with gold tinsel on my head, I played the Sixth Candle of the Menorah for our Sunday school’s Chanukah program.

These sweet, picture-perfect memories honoring the joys of family, religious tradition, and childhood were short lived, fading with the painful realization that most of the adults "in my picture"—my father, grandparents, aunts and uncles—had died, and that the surviving family members were scattered all over the globe.

One sad thought gave rise to a succession of sad thoughts and I soon found myself grieving for the Jews murdered during the Holocaust, particularly the 1.5 million children who never had the chance to experience and remember Chanukah as I did. And the grief I was suddenly feeling and claiming as my own resonated within me on a deeply personal level, the intensity of which took me by surprise. That my personal life experience was somehow bound up with this great tragedy of the Jewish people was a revelation to me, an acknowledgment of my connection to Judaism, its history, rituals and holidays—like Chanukah.

I will light my Chanukah candles again this year, making sure to kindle the flames from left to right.



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Additional Information

Fredricka Maister is a journalist and screenwriter living in New York.

Originally published in Farbrengen Magazine.



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