DAYTON CHRISTIAN JEWISH DIALOGUE

Minutes of Meeting

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Date: December 12, 2004

Location: Marianist Residence, 312 Stonemill/

Host: Bert Buby

Topic: Sharing and fellowship meeting; Carry-in dinner

Part of Email From Bert Buby to Eric Friedland Describing the Meeting

 The meeting went well through the leadership of Ken and myself.  About fifteen of us were there and we had enough food for an army.  The Marianists profited from this.  Lenore Sonnenberg surprised us all.  Just as Paul, our director was ready to start the latkes or potato pancakes she came bustling in with 90 of them and wanted to serve them hot.  She did this and they were delicious.  Then people came bringing a lot of desserts and salads of sorts.  So the food, drinks and ambience was set in festive ways with food,  wonderful decorations on the tables,  a candle and pine from Lillian, and the Chanukkah (no dagesh in the n) candlelabra and an advent wreath. Ken played music for the Chanukkah blessings and it was the song you suggested done by a famous cantor.  Four of us Marianists sang Psalm 27  and Mary's Song.   Eileen explained the Advent wreath and its symbolism of the four candles with one which is usually pink in color.  A brother from N.Y named Brother Mark Ormond read the beautiful piece you sent me.  After some music and some eating we settled into personal sharing about the festivals of Chanukkah and Christmas. There were some good personal stories and everyone joined in doing this.  Wally was the only one who did not share a personal story but he did have comments and observations.  We had started at 6:30 and ended around 10 P.M.  The fifteen represented Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

 Story Read at Meeting, Contributed by Eric Friedland

Connecting the  Generations

By Gina Klonoff

A cold drizzle was creating puddles  around my feet as I made my way home from the Seattle Public  Library.  It was an afternoon in December 1940, soon after my arrival  in the United States.  Under my coat I was protecting a copy of Anne of Green Gables, which I had just checked out for the third  time.  Despite my limited English, I was determined to discover how  Anne met the challenge of adapting to an unfamiliar environment, mirroring  my own new life in America.

The dim, gloomy street reflected my mood  as the faint lights from Christmas trees, already visible behind the  windows, reminded me that tonight was the first night of Hanukkah.  I  stopped and leaned against a wet lamppost recalling images of past  Hanukkah nights and of my now fragmented family. I was back in our Vienna apartment.   My parents, Grandfather Mendel with his dignified beard, Grandmother Tova  in her blue silk dress and pearl necklace, and Cousin Bertha, her raven  hair pulled into a bun, were all gathered around our silver Hanukkah  menorah.  My great-grandfather, a silversmith in Poland, had  crafted it for the marriage of his eldest daughter.  In every generation since, it had brightened my family's Hanukkah  celebrations.  It symbolized not only the victory of the Maccabees,  but also the invincible spirit of Judaism and the continuity of our  family.

A hundred years later and six thousand  miles away, I still delighted in the thought of its rich silver patina,  with lovely rosebuds and exquisite leaves and stems engraved on its nine  branches.

A dump truck pulled up and splashed me  from the feet up, shattering my reverie.  "Where did everything go?"  I mumbled to myself. But I knew where everything had  gone.  Grandfather had been arrested on Kristallnacht and  taken to Dachau, where he was killed.  Grandmother died of a heart  attack soon after the Nazis had looted their apartment and destroyed their  stationery store.  Bertha, arrested by the British trying to escape  to Palestine on an illegal boat, was interned in a detention camp.   But the Hanukkah menorah?  Since it was forbidden to take any  valuable artifacts out of the country, its fate was a  mystery.

It was dark by the time I arrived  home.  My father was already back from the synagogue, and my mother  was peeling potatoes.  She laid aside one large potato and began to  grind the others for latkes.  When I asked her what the extra potato  was for, she answered, "That will be our Hanukkah  menorah." I shook my head in sorrow.  With so  many people and things vanished from my life, was our precious heirloom to  be replaced by a potato?  Was that to be another new custom in our  new country?  Mother hollowed out two shallow grooves on opposite  ends of the potato and pressed a small candle into one.  Father was  about to light the second candle when there was a knock on the front door.  When he opened it, a mailman thrust a package into Father's  hand.  "Special delivery," he said.  "Sign here." 

The package was covered with foreign  stamps, which turned out to be from Palestine.  There was no return  name or address anywhere on the box.  We were dumbfounded.  Who  could have sent us a package from the Holy Land?  With unsteady  hands, we tore away the paper.  The first thing we saw was a sealed envelope addressed to my parents.  Father opened it and read the  letter aloud in German.  

Dear Cantor and Mrs. Schiffman,

After the Nazis looted Mrs. Schiffman's  mother's apartment, she died from a heart attack.  The concierge went  into her apartment and found a package hidden in the closet.  The  concierge was a Christian woman who knew the family.  She took the  package to Bertha just before she left for Palestine.  On the boat to  Haifa, Bertha told me the story.  She said if the British catch one  of us, the other must mail the package to the address inside.  I was  lucky to escape after we landed, helped by the Hagganah.  I had  plenty of trouble in the beginning and I am sorry to say, I forgot about  the package.  Yesterday, I found it.  Please excuse me for this  long wait.

Respectfully, 

Bertha's  Chavarah

The three of us pried open the box.   Inside, wrapped in torn tissue paper, lay a black and white horsehair  cushion.  As Mother lifted it out of the box, we all wondered,  What was so important about this cushion that Bertha had risked so much  to ensure its safety?  Father examined it from all angles, even sniffed it, and pressed his hands into the bristly cloth.  He stopped suddenly.

"Quick, Marta.  Get me some  scissors."  Mother found her sewing basket and handed him her small  scissors.  Father carefully began to snip open the stitches along one  side of the cushion.  With a mass of straw littering the floor, he  reached in and pulled out the still shining, so familiar, silver Hanukkah menorah!

I could barely contain myself.  Our  beautiful menorah had returned just in time for the first night of  Hanukkah in our new home.  For a moment, we were stunned, and then we  all started talking at once.  How did it get out of Austria?   Who would have risked smuggling it out of the country?  We assumed Bertha had hidden it in the cushion, taken it on the train across the  border and onto the boat.  Then she made sure that, in the event she  could not carry out her intentions, someone else would. 

Father put the menorah on the  table and transferred the candle from the potato into its rightful  place.  He lit the shammas, which he held up high, and recited  the b'rakhah over the Hanukkah candles.  When he began to sing  Sheheheyanu in honor of the first night, mother and I joined in  with fervor.  For me, the blessing that night applied to more than  just the beginning of Hanukkah.  It also acknowledged the miracle  that had reconnected me with my roots.  I felt a surge of hope and  optimism.  For the first time in a long time, things did not look  quite so bleak; something precious had come back to me.  The fact  that it had arrived when it did was a special omen. 

Today, the silver Hanukkah menorah  stands on the sideboard in our dining room.  My older son, David,  knows that one day it will stand in his home, and later, in that of his  daughter, Anna, and then in that of one of her children, and down the  generations.  Its flickering candles will symbolize the continuity of  our family, as well as the inextinguishable flame of  Judaism.

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