Today while catching up on computer work after a VERY busy start to Hanukkah, I was listening to a show and a rabbi talked about the meaning behind the lighting of the Hanukkiah (the menorah we use for Hanukkah). We start with lighting one light for each day (and the shamash, the helper candle), and work our way up to having the whole hanukkiah lit with 8 candles and the shamash on the last night. Her midrash, story, to explain the meaning behind this is to remind us how much greater we are as a group together, than we are individually. That we each need to shine on our own, doing the best we can in this world, but connecting and being together as a people, makes the world a brighter and better place.
This resonated with me, helping me reflect on my week. I have connected with so many people from the Jewish community this week, in such an amazing way. Seeing community members, young to old connecting, celebrating, enjoying life together, is why I love doing what I do. Living in a world, where we can be proud to be Jewish, celebrate it and connect through it, and making sure we continue to do so is important. For the future generations, may we keep fighting for this right all over the world, and making sure we continue to be able to do this.
Being able to light our Hanukkiah together as a family, as all the past generations of my family have, is powerful. Feeling the presence of my grandparents and others that I have shared this special feeling with, in my heart as we sing the prayers and light the candles. Also, feeling the connections with all the other Jewish people around the world doing the same thing is amazing. Even when cooking some of the traditional foods, there are times I think in my head “come on grandpa/grandma guide me”, as the smells bring me back to celebrating in their home.
Within the last week we have helped celebrate Hanukkah with so many of the great Jewish non profit organizations across Milwaukee. Jewish Family Services that has been around since 1867, which was started to help support immigrant Jews coming to the United States, and has evolved and adapted to help not just the Jewish people of Milwaukee but reaching beyond our own community to do good throughout the great Milwaukee community. Milwaukee Jewish Federation is the parent organization that does so much amazing work through all the non profits under it, helping to educate against anti semitism, work politically to protect us, fund jewish camps and trips to Israel and jewish school and SO much more. The Harry and Rose Samson Jewish Community Center we celebrated in countless ways through their staff oneg, the community wide celebration, chaverim, Gan Ami class celebrations and more, The JCC helps to give the community a place to gather and celebrate in so many ways, with programs, just having a physical space to be and more. Celebrating with the Ovation Foundation, helping to raise money to make sure our older generations have a place to join and gather and live as they are too old to live on their own. Ovation has a special place in my heart, not only did my grandfather live at Chai Point and then did hospice at The Jewish Home, but I have been a consultant with Ovation for 6 years and my work with the residents is something I cherish and hope to do more of in the future.
Then we have all the families we celebrated with at the Gelt Drop run by Chabad, The JCC Hanukkah community celebration, Congregation Emanu El, and all the families that ordered. Yes we are only on the 5th night, so there are more celebrations occuring, even as cold as it is, I know we are planning to celebrate Shabbat and Hanukkah with my family tonight because as always Shabbat is the most important holiday, reminding us to slow down, connect with the people we care about and cherish our time.
All these organizations and families are like the candles on the Hanukkiah, they each do great things individually but together we shine so much brighter making a great community. Personally, I look at the staff that worked over the last two weeks, all 25 of them, also as those candles, they helped make all these events and orders happen. They contributed to the brightness and light they were seeing through the darkness of this time of year, and I thank them for being a part of my team, as well as all those we fed for letting us help make this holiday shine bright for them.