While celebrating Hanukkah with her housemates, cradle Catholic and comedy writer Carolyn Martone explores the Jewish roots of her faith and and her craft, in this eight-day blog.
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December 14th, 2010
Days 8 – 12: Highlights from Hanukkah
“For a man to be sure of his road, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.”
– St. John of the Cross
Two weeks ago, I embarked on an uncertain experience with no clue as to where I was going. My self-imposed “menorah mission”: To experience Hanukkah firsthand, alongside my housemates, and to learn as much as possible about Judaism in eight short days. I began this Festival of Lights utterly in the dark; the only thing I knew for sure (yikes, did I just quote Oprah?) was that I wanted to know more. Interesting too that the translation of the root of the word “Chanukah” is “chinuch,” which means education.
My sources of knowledge and inspiration: my kind housemates Claire and Katie. The Noah’s Arc menorah, whose candles illuminated my way each night. The generous folks at Temple Emanuel who embraced my humble Hanukkah project with open arms and latkes, and who led me to further resources, including better bakeries. (I’ll be back for bingo, bubbies!) My bibles: The Idiot’s Guide to Judaism, It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner and Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan.…
December 9th, 2010
Days Six and Seven of Hanukkah
Author Yaakov Astor states,
“Chanukah ideally is meant to instill in us an image of what we can be — no matter how far from that image we may begin.”
I thought back to high school, a time when all I wanted to be was an actor.
I have a confession to make. (Another reason to love Judaism: no confession, and thus — no penance!) The summer I was 16, I had my first job working the concession stand at “Live at the Lakehouse,” an outdoor summer stage that featured free musical theater six nights a week. Confession #2: I saw the play Fiddler on the Roof 36 times as a result. Let me repeat this: I saw Fiddler on the Roof thirty-six times. If there is such a thing as a “born-again Jewish experience” I had it, circa 1988. Though the concession stand closed after intermission, I always stayed. I broke my ten-thirty curfew and climbed up the hill in Washington Park to find a spot under the stars to watch Act Two.
By the end of July, I knew the lyrics to all of the songs and volunteered to help backstage. I …
December 8th, 2010
Fifth Day of Hanukkah
Sunday morning, 9 a.m.: I awake to a knock on my door. “I have some bad news, Carolyn.” It was my housemate Claire. For months, I’ve been afraid that the house I live in and love would finally sell. In my adult life, I’ve moved more times than the Israelites; I haven’t been kicked out of Eygpt, but I might hold the record for the most sublets and shares in New York and California. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to move again.”
But the news was of a different kind. “Katie and I aren’t going to be able to go to the Hanukkah party with you today,” Claire said. “We just got tickets to a reading of David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice.“
“NO! I want to go to too!” I said in my best imitation of a British accent. “I want to go to the David Sedaris reading right away!” mimicking Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka.
The three of us were supposed to attend the “Hanukkah Happening” at Temple Emanuel, home to a (now Reform) congregation for the past 156 years. I’d never been to a Hanukkah …
December 4th, 2010
Fourth Day of Hanukkah
In keeping with yesterday’s “Musings on Menorahs,” here is the photo of the Noah’s Arc menorah that I’ve adopted as my own this Hanukkah.
I learned that the world’s largest menorah is at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan. It will be kindled at 5:30 p.m. each of the remaining four nights of Hanukkah.
I apologize for having forgotten one of the most important aspects of Hanukkah in yesterday’s post. It took me a few nights to learn that blessings are said when the menorah is lit. (ADD — that’s me.) There are three blessings in all. Tonight, one and two were said:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
A photo of my housemate Katie, here at Hanukkah headquarters with a menorah on her head after she opened the box of Jiffy biscuits I got her for Day 3. Katie happens to be wearing blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag.
December 3rd, 2010
Second Night/Third Morning of Hanukkah
On the third day of Hanukkah, my housemate gave to me… a Menorah that she got for free!
Okay, that was a terrible attempt to tweak the lyrics of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to fit this situation. I wasn’t expecting to be the recipient of any Hanukkah gifts, but Claire came back this morning with a gift: my very own menorah! This is a first for me, and it comes with a box of Hanukkah candles! On this, the third morning of Hanukkah, I feel like a kid on Christmas. She got it courtesy of the Lubavitch Youth Organization.
Last night, Katie and I lit the menorahs on the mantle. There are now a total of four menorahs on our mantle courtesy of my housemates, who have become reluctant participants (if not hostages) of this “Hello Hanukkah” project. One immediately became my favorite. It’s a decorative Noah’s Ark, featuring eight animals: a walrus, a bear, a lamb, a penguin, an elephant, a dog, a cow and a friendly-looking tiger. I’ve always been a sucker for the story of Noah and his ark of rescued misfits. Since adopting a rescued dog, I’ve learned a bit …
December 2nd, 2010
“Hanukkah is the festival of lights,
instead of one day of presents we have eight crazy nights…”
Adam Sandler, “Chanukah Song”
It’s not coincidence that much of what I know about Hanukkah (not much) is from Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” performed on Saturday Night Live. The show and many of the comedians whose careers were born there have occupied my mind and heart for the last thirty years.
Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, sugar cereals, caffeine and SNL were just a few of the things that were banned at my parents’ house. Which is exactly why I spent every weekend at my grandparents, where Murray and Morris, Belushi and Curtin and Ackroyd and Newman — various cast members from the first seasons of Saturday Night Live — became “my people.” There was one cast member, however, who stood out from the rest and was my favorite. Her name was Gilda, and she had me at, “You’re so funny, I forgot to laugh”.
Today, I admire Gilda Radner for many reasons: her emergence as one of the most celebrated American comediennes; her fierce sense of the absurd; the humor she found even in suffering; the bravery with …