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Report by Paula Antolini
December 2, 2018, 8:05PM EDT
‘A Menorah Memory ‘ By Sen. Toni Boucher
During this holy time of year for Jews and Christians, I am reminded of my first exposure to the solemn ceremony of lighting the eight candles of the menorah. Huddled together in a small apartment I shared with my two college roommates, I leaned over to light the first candle of the eight day Hanukkah ritual as my friends placed a cover over my head.
It was our first year allowed off campus at American University and we were excited to be living on our own in DC. Karen and Ellen were both Jewish, and I Catholic. We had just returned after Thanksgiving break, and Christmas trees and colored lights could be seen at every corner. They were excited to help me drag a tree up three flights of stairs and make homemade cookie ornaments and string popcorn to adorn our very rudimentary Christmas tree. I could tell from their enthusiasm that they had been waiting for an opportunity to take part in this tradition for some time.
For me, it was the wonder at the very simple but lovely evening candle lighting of the menorah, the centerpiece of our three room apartment, followed by a small, thoughtful gift each night which made an indelible and lifelong impression.
It meant more to me than a celebration of a victory over an oppressive king and the rededication of a temple and how the miracle of a small quantity of oil to light the Temple’s menorah for only a day was to last eight days. It was more than what I had read about the Jewish plight over the cemeteries. It was the beginning of lifelong friendships and a love of the Jewish community that welcomed me on every occasion.
They welcomed my family into their homes, temples, Bar and Bat mitzvahs, weddings, funerals and Passover meals.
We shared holidays’ foods and customs.
My children learned the tattoos on some grandparents arms were from harrowing escapes from Auschwitz and other camps.
My children learned to understand how and why they and others suffered and what they endured.
They understand why we need to stand together against all forms of bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitic actions.
At this time of giving, I am reminded that the best gift is the gift of oneself; the gift of acceptance and inclusion of others; understanding and respecting our different customs and way of life and showing kindness to family members and members of our community.
I will always be grateful to my Jewish friends and the Jewish community for their inclusion and for all they have given me and my family. Chag Urim Sameach!