When I was a kid I used to think that Hanukkah was kind of a wimpy holiday. Then I got to loving it. And now I love it because it is a wimpy holiday. Take the candles: they are almost as skinny as birthday candles, but they don’t, sadly, come atop a cake. They burn for maybe a half-hour. And the foods: latkes are great for a night--provided they come right out of the frying pan to your fork without even touching a plate, per the instructions of Ella of blessed memory. But after two or three nights, who hasn’t had their fill of latkes for the year? Soufganiyot are great, IF you buy them in a regular donut shop and don’t try to make them yourself. Again a bite or two a year is plenty. The songs: there are maybe three Hanukkah songs that any of us actually knows (and then maybe only the first line). I’ve gotten to the ripe old age of nearly 61 still never having played a game of dreidl. And I’m not convinced that I’ve missed much.
Yes, Hanukkah is a skinny little holiday, a celebration whose observance lasts a few minutes a night for eight nights, nothing like Pesach or the High Holy Days or the great seasonal pageant of our surrounding community. It is the remembrance of a skinny little victory, a provisional moment between historical disasters. I’m sure you know the story -- huge planetary societal shifts towards Greek civilization, the little tribe of Jews way out in Palestine spread-eagled between the attractive, sophisticated Hellenistic ways and the old ways of their ancestors. Internal strife between Jews raising up enough ruckus that the local Syrian emperor with a flick of his wrist tries to quiet the noise out in the provinces by closing down their temple and banning their practices. A band of brothers taking up arms and somehow, momentarily, driving the Syrian army back. Cleaning up the temple, reinstating the old ways, sustaining them until the corruption of the Maccabees’ own successors--and probably the inexorability of social change--left the little Jewish colony vulnerable to definitive destruction.
And yet: they drove back the heaviest, most immediate oppression; cleaned up the mess; and kept the lights on. For me, the first Hanukkah candle is a surprise every year. It’s so, well, so light. There is so much difference between a dark room and one with one Hanukkah candle lit. One Hanukkah candle makes all the difference. By the time you take the Shamash candle and kindle the first night candle, it is a blaze on the retinas.
It is customary to do no work while the candles burn. That may be why we use little ones: so we can get back to the frying pans without having to wait hours for big tapers to burn down. Maybe you sing “Mi Yimalel” or “Rock of Ages” while they’re burning, maybe you just look at people’s faces in the candlelight or feel the light shimmering on your eyelids. It’s a sweet and holy moment any way you do it.
If you read my column in the November Megillah, you know I was apprehensive about the midterm elections. They went somewhat better than I anticipated, but not perfectly. Even if they had (from my perspective), it wouldn’t nearly have fixed or healed all that I think has gone wrong in recent times. It didn’t quite feel like time to break out the champagne and fireworks. But neither was it quite right to note the aftermath as I did: by moping about all that had not gone as I had fervently wished. I needed something like Hanukkah. A skinny celebration. A pause in the action to light a light, take a breath, sing a song or two. Maybe even for, say, eight days.
As many of you know, there is a prayer in the siddur called Gomel, a blessing that a person can say after surviving an ordeal. It’s a tiny little one-line recitation that gives thanks that the person made it through; and the congregation replies with a line saying, great, and may it keep going well for you. I’ve never been quite sure when an ordeal rises to Gomel level. I know that in olden days this blessing was said after a person made it through a harrowing illness or crossed the ocean on a ship. It was a heavy-duty blessing. People still sometimes have harrowing illnesses, but you can cross the ocean in half a day on an airplane with less risk than you face driving to shul. Should you still say Gomel after a big trip? What about if you have a surgery that isn’t likely to kill you, and you in fact recover just fine? What about after a hard couple of months at work? Or a conversation you’ve been dreading, and it actually goes pretty well, or at least you made the call or had the visit and now it’s over?
Recently at shul, before the service, someone told a funny story about a travel mishap that was pretty grueling while it was going on but turned out well. When it came time in the service this person said Gomel. I thought it was perfect! It was a momentary pause to acknowledge a precarious experience, to give thanks that it turned out well, and for the rest of us to wish our friend continued good fortune. Exactly what was called for.
I don’t think we celebrate enough along the way of life. Our Justice Group recently did a push to get people to submit public comments in opposition to a regulation change that would reduce protections for immigrant children who are detained. We had only a couple of weeks before the deadline. We held three public get-togethers at which people could stop by, learn a little about the issue, and submit a comment. At our last Justice Group meeting we were reviewing that, indeed, our little public gatherings went pretty well. We don’t know exactly how many people submitted comments on account of our efforts, though we heard about people doing it at home or telling their friends. Someone at the meeting reported that nationwide more than 40,000 public comments had been submitted. 40,000! A Gomel moment. A Hanukkah candle’s worth. Who knows what will ultimately happen with this terrible regulation, but it’s worth stopping along the way and appreciating what success there is.
It’s rare that we can permanently defeat the armored elephants, horsemen, and foot soldiers of the Imperial Army--even collectively, much less individually. Often, at best there is a successful moment, a happy moment, a moment when things could have gone worse than they did. These instances call for a little bit of celebration, a pause along the way, with our friends, a few sweet moments by candlelight, a latke.
The philosopher Emil Fackenheim called the exodus from Egypt the “root experience” of the Jewish people. That miraculous, definitive liberation from enslavement happened (even mythically) once and only once in history, and it has been enough to fill our hearts and our prayers ever since. Pesach, which celebrates that root experience, is a fat holiday, a maximal holiday, a time of complete and ecstatic thanksgiving. Four cups of wine indeed!
Hanukkah, by contrast, is for the little victories, the ones that we know may not last, the ones that weren’t comprehensive, the ones where we know that pretty soon we’ll be back in the trenches again. But we can still stop, light a candle, sing a song, and fry up some food that we wouldn’t usually make a dinner of.
I hope this year to pause each night of Hanukkah and think about something that went pretty well, or at least something that got a little less-worse, and to build a habit of being thankful even if it wasn’t everything I wanted. I’d like to think about the small efforts I’ve made, and those of my friends, that made things a little better than they would have been otherwise. I want to be delighted and grateful, even for a half-hour. And then to lift up a greasy donut or potato pancake and take a happy bite!
Happy Hanukkah, dear community.
If your Hora is a little halting, your Freylekhs not quite as free as it used to be, and your Patsh Tanz slightly uncoordinated, come to the Hanukkah party at 4:30 pm to brush up your moves. Devora Rossman will teach some Klezmer and Israeli dances. She will demonstrate each dance so when the Klezmishpoche Band is in full swing, the beautiful, classic moves will come easily to all of us.
You are also welcome to sit and listen to the music, or to find some space in which to explore your own ways of expression.
Hanukkah Party Volunteers Sought
We still need a few more volunteers to make the Hanukkah party a success. Please contact Susan Levenson-Palmer at email@example.com or at 882-1750 to find out how and when we could best use your assistance.
If you are inspired to help make latkes for the dinner, please contact Marnie Press at 513-5539. We will be cooking at the Caspar Community Center on Sunday, December 9th from 9:00 AM until about 2:00 PM, with lunch included.
Shabbat Morning Services
Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning of the year from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. People are welcome to come for any part of the service. Members of the community often give the davar Torah (“word of Torah”), an interpretation (drash) of the weekly Torah portion. The services are led each week by Rabbi Holub, except when she is out of town. The drash schedule for November is below:
12/01/18 - Vayeshev - Margaret Holub
12/08/18 - Miketz - Mirisa Livingstar
12/15/18 - Vayigash - Margaret Holub
12/22/18 - Vayechi - Raven Deerwater
12/29/18 - Shemot - Andrea Luna
Kabbalat Shabbat in December will be one week earlier than usual, on December 21st at the home of Harriet Bye and Larry Sawyer in Albion. In January we will gather at the home of Carol and Jerry Greenberg in Mendocino on the 25th, back to our usual fourth Friday of the month regime.
We have nearly all the hosts we need for 2019; however, things change, so if you would like to volunteer to host a gathering, contact Mina at 937-1319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The joyful celebrations begin at 6:00 PM and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following.
The Elders’ Conversation meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month; winter hours are 2:30-4:30 PM at the shul. Our December conversations will be on the 11th and 25th. (It’s possible that we’ll make another plan for December 25th so stay tuned.) Topics to be announced. People of all ages are most welcome.
MCJC Justice Group
The Justice Group continues to focus on immigrants. Members are concentrating on the administration’s draconian regulation affecting the public charge rules that would make it more difficult for immigrant families to apply for programs that support their basic needs. The administration wants to put up obstacles for immigrants who receive support such as healthcare, nutrition, or housing assistance to be granted green cards or become U.S. citizens.
Public charge is a term used in immigration law to refer to those who are primarily dependent on the government to meet their basic needs. The regulation change would broaden the definition of who can be considered a public charge to include immigrants authorized to be in the United States who use one or more government programs listed in the proposed rule.
The proposed regulation will have the effect of scaring immigrant families away from applying for services that would help them create secure and healthy futures in the U.S. The original intent of the services was to give immigrant families a helping hand in a new land; the proposed change would make families choose between safety, nutrition, and health care or a permanent immigration status (such as a green card) and/or future citizenship. If using any service prevents immigrants from staying in the U.S., then the only immigrants who will receive permanent status will be those who enter the country already wealthy.
Protecting Immigrant Families--protectingimmigrantfamilies.org--is working to stop this Public Charge rule. If you are concerned about this issue, you can submit a comment on the website, which has instructions, suggestions and information. Protecting Immigrant Families will submit all comments made on its website to the Department of Homeland Security, United States Customs and Immigration. The deadline for submitting comments is December 10th.
The Justice Group meets on the second Thursday of the month—December 13th—from 5:30-7:30 pm at the shul. All are welcome!
The book group will meet Monday, December 17th at 2:00 PM to discuss The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal. Set on a single day in 1632, this engrossing historical novel imagines the complex story behind one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp," which was commissioned by the Amsterdam Surgeons’ Guild.
The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening's big event, it follows several central characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, awaiting his turn at the gallows; Flora, the woman pregnant with his child who hopes to save him from the noose; Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers; René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides; and the 26-year old young master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about his assignment. Then there's Pia, an art restorer who is examining the painting in contemporary times. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way.
The book group meets at 2:00 PM on the third Monday of the month. Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information. Gallery Bookstore offers 10% off your purchases if you belong to the book club.
MCJC Board Meetings
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The December meeting has not yet been scheduled. If you would like to attend, please leave a message on the phone at the shul, 964-6146.
Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter
We are grateful to Susan and Gary Levenson-Palmer for helping to prepare the November newsletter for mailing. They are ideal overnight guests! If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it at home, or another spot of your choosing, in about two hours. Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or email@example.com.
New Online Megillah
The MCJC Megillah is now available in a new format suitable for online viewing. The new format will adapt itself to any screen size, including smartphones. It is posted on the MCJC website on the newsletter page https://www.mcjc.org/newsletter.
The Mendocino Megillah is published in three formats: hardcopy, emailed PDF, and online web page. You can subscribe to the hardcopy version and have it mailed to you, you can subscribe to the email PDF/ online version, or you can receive both. The Megillah is posted on the MCJC website www.mcjc.org/newsletter.
Any information on changes in mailing address, changes in email address, and changes in email notifications should be sent to Sarah Nathe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you choose not to be a contributing member of MCJC, we request a $25 annual fee for the Megillah hardcopy or email.
Great Thanks To The Following Donors
Josh & Carolyn Latkin; Donna Feiner; Don Hall; Mike Kim & Susann Flowers;
Andrea Luna; Linda Rosengarten; Mina Cohen & Dr. Jeff Berenson; Ira Beyer;
Rick & Nancy Banker; Margaret Fox-Kump; Marinela Miclea; Henrietta Steiniger;
Harold Hauck & Gloria Liner; Sandy Glickfeld; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy; Jeannette Rasker & Robert Cutler, Carolyn Steinbuck; Irene Malone; Nancy Harris;
Jeff Zolitar & Audrey Wells; Joan Selchau; Mark Slafkes; Sasha Graham & Colin Drake
Karen and Leonardo Bowers in honor of Claire Ellis’ birthday.
To the Adele Saxe Tzedekah Fund: Mina Cohen & Dr. Jeff Berenson in honor of Claire Ellis’ birthday.
To the Justice Group Citizen Scholarship Project: Sherman & Claire Erven Lee.
Contributing Membership In MCJC
Everyone who lives on the Mendocino Coast, and desires to be a member of MCJC, is one. The MCJC Board has set a goal of having every household become CONTRIBUTING members in 2018. We have memberships at Regular, Limited Income, and Family levels, as well as any level possible for you. Please mail your donations to MCJC, Box 291, Little River, CA 95456, or use PayPal on the MCJC website.
When you contribute in memory or honor of someone, an acknowledgment card will be sent to the individual or family. Please include their name and mailing address. Contact Donna Montag at email@example.com
The Mendocino Megillah is published monthly. The deadline for article submission is the 15th of the month before publication. The editor will include all appropriate material, space permitting, with the exception of copyrighted material lacking the permission of the author. Divergent opinions are welcome. Material printed in the Megillah does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the MCJC Board of Directors.
Please Support the Underwriters Below
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Phoebe Graubard: Attorney at Law. Wills, trusts, probate, conservatorships. 594 S. Franklin, Fort Bragg, 95437. 964-3525. www.phoebelaw.com Member National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Wheelchair accessible.
Rainsong & Rainsong Shoes: From head to toe in Mendocino! Contemporary clothing. Shoes & accessories for men & women. Two locations: Mendocino and Healdsburg. 937-4165 (clothing), 937-1710 (shoes), 433-8058 (Healdsburg). www.rainsongshoes.com/
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Rhoda Teplow Designs: Original jewelry created with beads from around the world, specializing in brass from Ghana, silver from Israel, and lapis, turquoise and coral from Tibet/Nepal. POB 453, Mendocino CA 95460. Tel: 964-2787. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sea Shore Sells: New-to-you clothing for everyone, collected and curated by Mirisa Livingstar. She sells clothes...by the seashore! $5 off your first purchase when you sign up at www.poshmark.com/closet/seashoresells and use code SEASHORESELLS
Silver & Stone: 45050 Main Street, Mendocino. Contemporary sterling silver & gemstone jewelry for women & men. Affordable to indulgent. 11:00-6:00 pm daily. 937-0257. Email: email@example.com
Thanksgiving Coffee Co: Local roasters on the Mendocino Coast for over three decades. Certified organic, shade grown coffee & Fair Trade Coffees. Box 1918, Fort Bragg, 95437. (800) 462-1999. www.thanksgivingcoffee.com
Tonk's Tree Service: Hazardous removals, spurless pruning, arborist reports, stump grinding, 60' aerial lift, view and sun improvement. Owner-operated, licensed & insured. Tatanka Russell, certified arborist WE-9236A, lic. no. 798911. 964-6209, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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MCJC Board and Contacts
(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code)