Archive for Hanukkah

Saying Yes

I had spent the day weighing the merits of this kosher blue and white cookie over that, this Hanukkah gelt over that, this quality wooden dreidel over that fun plastic pink one. Hanukkah Blue & White Cookies

I had come up with a really great Hanukkah basket , one that my mother would be proud of. It was eleven p.m., a time for the quiet contemplation of “CSI.” My husband Josh had just plunked down next to me with a bowl of popcorn. Ready, set…relax.
The phone rang. It was my friend Mark, frantic.
“Listen,” he said. “I’m in a bind. I’m in charge of a fundraising event.”
“That’s great.”
“Can you prepare 12 kosher gift baskets by seven a.m. tomorrow?”
“Twelve?”
“Well, some people at a synagogue need to be thanked for great work. By tomorrow.”
“Seven a.m.?” I said. “You meant p.m., right?”
“Well, no. Seven a.m. You see…”
I cleared my throat. “Never mind.”
Mark is a party planner and a dear friend, but I had been drawn into his mishegas before. For those of you who don’t speak Yiddish, mishegas is a very handy word. It means ‘craziness’ or ‘crazy behavior.’

Time and time again, Mark had “situations.” He needed 500 rugelach bags for a bris by…tomorrow. He needed twelve fragrant loaves of home-baked babka for a bridal shower by…today.

“They specifically asked for Challah Connection kosher gift baskets,” he wheedled. And possibly lied. TBHAN-Large

“Can you pick them up?” I asked him grumpily.

“I’ll see you at seven.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mark is very good at what he does. But when he doesn’t know how to say “no.” He wants to give his customers everything they ask for, and then some. It doesn’t matter to him if they just remembered that Aunt Florence adores a good chocolate babka.

I hung up the phone with Mark and looked longingly at the TV screen for a moment. There was somebody chasing somebody else across the screen, guns drawn.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t that Mark didn’t know how to say “no.” It wasn’t that 25 gift baskets would make or break Mark’s career.

It was that saying “yes” to the 12 people who needed to be thanked at the synagogue felt good to Mark. It felt good to be a yes-sayer, to give an affirmative answer to someone who is expecting a “no.” Maybe “yes” was like a chain. Mark said yes to the synagogue, and I said yes to Mark. Who knows? Maybe a “yes” was heading towards me.

May today contain a yes,

Jane

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All I want for Hanukkah is…

Jewish mothers, step right up and be heard if you, like me, suffer from Christmas envy. Come on, you’ve seen the ads on TV at that time of the year. Women in pink robes unwrapping gifts by the fireside, a steaming mug of cocoa nearby. There’s usually a diamond pendant or maybe a really nice cashmere sweater. The music alone on these commercials is enough to make you sob with envy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for these women, being honored by their families, and celebrating their holiday. Good for them!

It’s just…Hanukkah in my family has always been about the kids. Eight nights times three kids…I don’t need to do the math. I’m pretty sure it’s engraved on my brain. Even if we do simple gifts for seven of those nights, I’ve always wanted to mark each night with something special. For them.

Now, let me just add that I have sons. For those of you with daughters out there, it may be a different story. But for me, there hasn’t really been a Hanukkah where I have sat with a mug of cocoa. It’s more likely that I’ll be standing in with a spatula. Yelling. As in, “How many latkes can one person eat, Harry?”

I have never unwrapped a cashmere sweater under a tree or even nearby my Ficus plant.

Since my boys are now 19, 17, and 13, and since we live in an eco-friendly household where a daily attempt is made to keep trash to a minimum, we don’t really wrap presents anyway.

And over the years, my husband has given me many wonderful presents (thanks, dear!).

So if I don’t want a nice big box covered in wrapping paper, what do I want?

As I am pondering this question, my youngest son Mike comes crashing into the room, home from school. He’s so excited about something I can barely understand what he’s saying. He jumps up and down. Finally he calms down enough so that I can make out what he’s saying.

He got a part in the play.

And I got the answer to my question.

I guess (sigh) that’s what all mothers–Jewish and Christian and Muslim–want. A look of joy on her child’s face.

Hope today brings you and your family some joy,

mike2

Mike, our budding actor, in Anything Goes

Jane

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Jogging In The Rain

It was one of those days where you’d be better off staying inside and having a nice hot cup of tea. It rained. It stopped. It rained some more. The wind blew hard. Instead of viewing the weather from the couch like most reasonable people, I decided to go jogging around the track with my friend Christine. image004 Christine was stressed. For 16 years Christine had been married to Cam, her Jewish husband. And, for the first time in all those years, her mother-in-law had agreed to come to her house to celebrate a Jewish holiday.

Granted, it was Hanukkah . I didn’t mention to Christine that Hanukkah (חנוכה‬‎) had started as a very minor holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt of the Second Century BCE. To remember the fact that oil that should have only lasted one day stretched for eight days, we light the candles on the menorah each night.

I agreed that it was nice of her mother-in-law to relent and give up hosting one of the Jewish holidays. The only problem? Christine (she herself admitted) couldn’t cook to save her life.

“So,” I huffed. “What do you plan to serve?”

Wrong question. Christine sprinted on ahead on sheer adrenaline alone. I caught up with her eventually and repeated my question.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t have a clue. I’ve looked through books and the only thing I see is latkes . I can’t just serve potato pancakes.”

She looked at me hopefully. “Can I?”

A gust of wind blew my wet hair right into my face. It gave me a minute to come up with a tactful answer. “Well, usually you would serve latkes and then maybe a few other things. Maybe some applesauce and some sour cream.”

“Oh, right, she usually does have that stuff. Okay, what else?”

I suggested that she might want to include a roasted chicken, maybe some brisket, some vegetables. And then there were the desserts.

“I’m scared of the desserts,” Christine said. We stopped running. Christine was gasping for breath, either from running or from contemplating Jewish desserts.

I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. There was rugelach, there were blue-and-white cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, blue-and-white Jordan almonds, there was chocolate babka and there was dark chocolate.

Best of all, there was me , her friend, who just happened to own Challah Connection. I had her covered.

“There’s just one problem,” Christine said. “Do you have any spray that makes it smell like I baked it?”

Hmmm…that’s one for R & D.

Best wishes for good weather and good friends,

Jane

janebeforetemple

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Chrismukkah is Coming, Too!

We are in full “Hanukkah Mode” here at Challah Central, but don’t forget about Chrismukkah–it’s coming too! “What is Chrismukkah,” you might ask?

Last year, Sherry, our Director of Customer Service, was in search of a suitable gift for her brother (Jewish) and his wife (non-Jewish). Sherry wanted to give a gift that honored the two holidays that they observe, Hanukkah and Christmas. Our brainstorming lead to research which then lead to the recognition that Sherry’s quandary, sometimes called the “December Dilemma,” is extremely common! There are many of you who are celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas and in doing so, have taken traditions from both. This is what we call “Chrismukkah.”

Our research led us to the book, Chrismukkah, by Ron Gompertz. The book takes a light-hearted look at the celebration of what we all have in common, not what makes us different. While Chrismukkah is not a holiday with a date on the calendar, Ron claims that it is a state of mind for the season. It is a multi-cultural, mish-mash of the cherished holiday rituals we grew up with. Chrismukkah is a way intermarried families of Christians and Jews can share the holidays. It’s customizable to suit the individual celebrants and their extended families.

In time for the holidays, we have developed a few Chrismukkah gifts, including Chrismukkah Traditions in a Box and Oy to the World—A Klezmer Christmas. We are feverishly developing more gifts, as we speak.

Speaking of the Chrismukkah book, this week I will fill you in on my conversation with the author. Stay tuned.

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