Archive | December, 2014

I Love Decorating for Hanukkah!

11 Dec

When I was growing up there was no such thing as Hanukkah decorations, except for owning a family menorah and several dreidels for my siblings and me.

We did have a major family Hanukkah party each year at my paternal grandparents.   All my aunts and uncles and cousins would come. We had latkes and potato kugel. Of course we each got a new little driedel and some chocolate Hanukkah gelt.   And then we each got a small gift from each of our aunts and uncles and grandparents. I always loved being with everyone.

When we got older my uncle, who was involved with the Broadway theaters, gave us each tickets to a show.   Now that was fun! All the cousins would go together during winter break and see some new show. Thanks Uncle Bernie! His gifts instilled in me a love of musical theater that continues!

But there was no decorating. My Christian friends all got to put up their trees and decorate their homes in a fantastic manner. Over the years I decorated lots of trees with many Christian friends. Dorothy and her mom had me over to decorate when I was very young. That was my first decorating experience. I enjoyed planning the perfect tree.

A high school friend, whose mother was German, would get special decorations each year from Germany. Included in them were chocolate circles covered in white sprinkles. I think they were called kringles.   We loved hanging them on the tree. And the ones that broke got eaten!

But for us, there was nothing.   And, yes, I do know that the holiday is not about decorating.   It is about celebrating the Maccabee triumph over the Greek/Syrians and religious freedom.   However, I still wanted decorations!

So imagine my joy when I had children and suddenly there were Hanukkah decorations! Lots of decorations everywhere, even here in Kansas!!   I went a little berserk!!

We could get Hanukkah banners and paper goods; tablecloths, napkins and aprons. Even Hanukkah towels to put in the kitchen and bathrooms are available now.   I have Hanukkah dishes and glasses!

The most exciting is that I could get these items at regular stores like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond.   Hanukkah was mainstream. I went wild!!! Each year I decorate my house for Hanukkah.   And even though my children are adults, I still decorate! To be honest, I even buy new items each year!

hanukkah placemats

We even could get fabric with Hanukkah designs. Last year I had a friend who loves to quilt take all the Hanukkah fabric I had collected over the years and make placemats. They are lovely! This will be the first year that I can use them when I set the table with my wonderful dreidel dishes and glasses.

My favorite of all the newly available items are the numerous hanukkiahs and driedles. It used to be that families had just a simple brass ‘menorah’, with the eight branches and the higher spot for the Shamas. But now!!! Oh my goodness, there is a major change. First of all, we no longer call it a menorah. That is just for seven-branched candelabras. Now we use the Hebrew word, hanukkiah, which indicates the nine-branch candelabra used for the holiday.

I have hanukkiahs decorated with cats and favorite childhood characters. I have a hamsa hanukkiah and one that looks like the Kotel in Jerusalem.   I own about 12 hanukkiahs. And I love each and every one.   I actually keep my hanukkiahs out all year long. I have friends who own many more hanukkiahs!


My driedel collection is another story.   I think I have over 100 driedels. Some are the little plastic ones that we got as children. But I also have lovely art driedels as well. Each year I take a number of them out and put them on display in the foyer of my home.   And each year I try to buy a new dreidel.

Draydel Store in Tel Aviv

This year was special. I spent the last week of November in Israel with my daughter. We walked through the new shopping area, Sarona, in Tel Aviv. There was a driedel store, called the Draydel House, Beyt HaSivivon.   Of course I had to purchase a dreidel there for my collection. It will be one of my Hanukkah gifts.

But I do not stop there, I even have a collection of stuffed Hanukkah bears. Yes I do. Every once in a while I see a stuffed bear decorated for Hanukkah and I have to buy it. I try to get two if possible, one for each of my children. But it is not always possible. I admit I do have Mickey Mouse holding a dreidel and other Disney Hanukkah decorations.

Hanukkah bears

Some might say that I have bought into the holiday hype. And I agree, I have. But it brings me so much joy to know that I can decorate my home and share my enthusiasm of my religion and my holiday with others.   I love decorating for Hanukkah. My enthusiasm will last as long as I do!

The Nuances of Nu!

4 Dec

It is amazing how two little letters can have so many meanings. Just an inflection of the voice, a shrug of the shoulders, a smile on the face, a touch of the hands, and ‘Nu” means something totally different.   It is not that surprising though, ‘Nu” is a Yiddish word. And translating it would be almost impossible.


As a question “Nu” lets you say in one word so many sentences: Are you okay? Did everything go well? What are you planning to do? What will happen? What is the story? Do you need help? What do you need? What can I do?

All those questions from one two-letter word. But all are questions to show concern for another person.


As an exclamation “Nu” has a different meaning. For a mother, this version of “Nu” is very important. Nu! Did you get your homework done?! Are you ready?! Let’s get going! I have had enough! Get your act together! Listen to me! What is going on here!

Mothers and fathers who use Yiddish have been asking/demanding of their children the “Nu” demand for generations. I can still hear my Grandmothers or my Mom saying “nu!” to me in my head.   Who needs a conscious when you have “Nu”?

There is another parental use of “Nu.” This is used for an older child with a long-term partner. This is the “are you getting married? What is happening? Nu? What is the story here? Do I get to plan a wedding?

Then there is always the parents’ very happy “Nu!” The Nu of joy comes about when you are almost a grandparent and you call to ask Nu? What does the doctor say? When? Or you can call your friends and say, “ Nu! I am a grandparent!”

So, Nu?

This more gentle version of the “Nu” question is more comforting. This is when you take someone’s hand in yours and try to offer comfort.   This is the compassionate Nu.

You went for your Mammogram today? So nu? How did it go?

Your Mom or Dad is sick? So nu? How are things going for them and for you?

Your child is having problems? So nu? Can I help?

You are depressed? So nu? You have friends, are you getting help.

The compassionate ‘Nu’ is very important. It is beyond just friendship. I think it shows compassion for acquaintances as well as close friends. So nu, I will be there for you. Don’t worry is part of tzedakah and rachmanis. We need to show others how we care. And the right ‘Nu’ at the right time can help.

Oy, Nu!

The Oy Nu is much more intent. The Oy Nu offers sympathy on a much higher level. Your parent passed away, “Oy Nu!” What can I do to help with the shiva with comforting you.

Your child was in a car accident. Oy Nu!

The Oy Nu! Is sort of an ‘I cannot believe that happened.   How? Why?’

A definition of “Nu” says it means “so.” But that is not really correct. It has many more meanings than that! Nu is nuanced. It is a small word with big aspirations. With intonations, inflections, shrugs and sighs, flashing eyes and temper, each of these changes the meaning of Nu.

I cannot imagine a world without this word. The nuances of ‘nu’ keep language fun and exciting, as well as simple. With one word, I can say so much!

Take Mom to Work Day, at The Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Israel

1 Dec

My visit to Israel would not be complete without the ability to kvell about my daughter and her job. So I was excited when she told me that she would take me to work with her for a few hours to see her office and meet the people she works with at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, Israel.

Situated in a unique glass and concrete building, the Peres Center for Peace is the vision of Shimon Peres, former president and prime minister of Israel and the recipient of the Noble Peace Prize. Now that he is retired from any political roles, and past the age of 90, he works each day at the Center, where he hopes that ideas and programs will help to create lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

My daughter began working at the Center earlier this month, just a few weeks before I arrived. But it is her dream employment. With her master’s degrees in both Middle East Studies and the Politics of Conflict from Ben Gurion University in the Negev, she has wanted to devote her life to working for a world of peace.   In her previous job she did have a opportunity to work with non-profits that focused on community building, which gave her some satisfaction. But, now she has an opportunity to contribute. Yes it is in a small way, but she has a start. What mother would not kvell in delight and pride? So I will and I am.

A private tour through the building with my daughter was one of the highlights. It included a walk through the lovely auditorium, which faces the Mediterranean Sea. Just last week I saw pictures posted on the Center’s Facebook page of Peres meeting with a group in this very room. And in the back of the photo, I saw my daughter! Now I am walking down the stairs of the empty room and standing near the podium on the stage where Peres sat a few days ago!

Walls of concrete and glass reach to the sky around the bookcases.

Walls of concrete and glass reach to the sky around the bookcases.

We also visited the library, which one day will be open to the public. The library is an amazing space with ceilings that seem to reach to the sky, surrounded by walls made in alternating waves of glass and concrete.

Then we walked through the offices, where I met some of the people she works with each day. I enjoyed meeting every person, because now I have a face and a voice and a place for the people she had told me about. They are no longer just names floating in the internet cyberspace between the USA and Israel. Now they are real people who had the foresight to hire my daughter to join their important team.

Another highlight was to listen to her field a phone call from a potential volunteer who wants to help at the Center. My daughter (among other duties) is in charge of all volunteers and interns who want to also be a part of the Center and its work towards peace.

And it is okay that I did not meet Shimon Peres, I did not expect to. However, I looked through the frosted glass into the area where his office is located. And I saw the outlines of the people who were meeting with him. Again I kvell thinking that my daughter is working on the same floor as Peres. She told me the first time she saw him was on the elevator. How cool is that?

The view of Jaffa and the Sea from my daughter's office

The view of Jaffa and the Sea from my daughter’s office

As I sat in my daughter’s office, I looked out the window to Jaffa, and then to the Sea. I am looking at the view that she sees each work day. I look at this extremely modern building and it’s concrete floors, glass walls and wave like structures. I imagine my daughter working here for years as she lives her dream. But most important is the smile on her face and the joyful gleam in her eyes when she talks about her job!

On Facebook: The Peres Center For Peace. The one with over 16,000 likes. The other one is not it.