A Chanukah Message from Arlene Caplan Appelrouth

A Chanukah Message from Arlene Caplan Appelrouth

Read community insights, advice and perspectives during Chanukah.

Arlene Caplan Appelrouth
Arlene Caplan Appelrouth

When I think of Chanukah, my thoughts begin as a child in the ’50s, in a predominantly Jewish NYC neighborhood, where it meant dreidels, chocolate gelt, potato latkes with sour cream or apple sauce, and maybe, getting a few dollars.

When I lived in Israel, during 1969 and 1970, Chanukah was joyous. I lived in Rehavia with four Canadian college students. Everyone had a menorah. We lit candles, sang and danced.

When I had my own children, my intention was to learn and communicate the history and meaning of this Jewish holiday. I wanted Chanukah to be celebrated, for my children to appreciate being Jewish, and for all of us to sing songs and play games and have fun on this holiday.

When my children were in a public elementary school in Sandy Springs, my husband and I always volunteered to give a Chanukah party and class to our three childrens’ classes.

Dan would capture the attention of the children with his dramatic retelling of the miracle of the oil. When he spoke of the Maccabees, you could feel the children’s excitement. My role was as the Jewish mother who shlepped my Cuisinart and electric frying pan. I invited the children to help make potato latkes.

We presented Chanukah in a positive light, so what came next was a surprise.

The principal called to say she had received a call from a parent whose child wanted to become Jewish.

That was the end of those Chanukah parties.

Time went on, and my family evolved.

My youngest, David, became enthralled with Jewish history. He was drawn to observant Jewish practice, became a ba’al teshuva, studied in yeshivot in Israel, where he got smicha (rabbinic ordination), and considers himself Haredi. His children attend ultraorthodox schools. They do not have television or go to movies. Chanukah, for them, is a remembrance of a time in Jewish history, with lessons to avoid assimilation, appreciate the miracles God provides and say special prayers expressing gratitude to God. We have the custom of eating things made with oil, namely potato latkes and donuts. We also play dreidel games.

Chanukah provides more opportunity to connect to my grandchildren. It’s meaningful to learn from our history and express gratitude for the present. Chanukah makes it easy to feel proud of being a Jew.

Arlene Caplan Appelrouth is a contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

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