Put It Out There
An intriguing mandate concerning the Chanukah menorah is that it must be placed in a window, or even better, in front of one’s home. This is a public declaration that “Jewish people live here.” We proclaim our Jewish identity and publicize G-d’s miracles to the world, and we do it for eight straight days.
I grew up in a rural town where we were the only Jewish family. We kept kosher and lit Shabbat candles at home, but in public we maintained a low Jewish profile. Chanukah was different. We lit an oil menorah in the house, but we placed an electric menorah in our window. We didn’t flaunt our Judaism, yet the menorah in the window announced it. It was the home of the Jewish children who helped with charity garage sales, the indefatigable Jewish PTA president and the big-hearted Jewish owner of the store that extended generous customer credit.
When my husband and I moved to Atlanta, we lived far from our present Beth Jacob area. We didn’t know which people on our street were Jewish. Our first Chanukah, we placed our menorah in a front window. During that week, Jewish families in our new neighborhood made an effort to meet us. The menorah signaled our membership in the tribe. Over ensuing Chanukahs more window menorot showed up in our area, each announcing that “A proud Jewish family lives here.”
I’ve lived where there were no other Jews, and I’ve lived in a neighborhood where I didn’t know if I lived among Jews or not. I learned that Chanukah candles out in front let Jews “be a light unto the nations” and at the same time, be a light unto ourselves.
Chana Shapiro is a regular columnist and contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.