Hanukkah, Keeping One’s Faith

In Toronto every Hanukkah, Israel Cohen lights his “most original” menorah. It consists of eight glasses half filled with colored water. Olive oil rests on top of the water. Eight wicks are inserted in plastic floaters and lit.

Hanukkah will be here soon starting sundown on December 8, and my thoughts go in two directions this year. The first is that our family has decided that we will not be giving presents to the grandchildren this year. Hurricane Sandy has made all too vivid of how so many have lost so much, and we are pooling our money to give to some families caught in the aftermath of that horrendous storm.

Approaching Hanukkah has also taken me back to Israel Cohen in December 1943, a forced laborer in Kaufering IV, one of the Dachau sub-camps in Germany. I think every Hanukkah from now on will take me back to Israel’s story. In the nightmare of their imprisonment, Cohen and his fellow prisoners found a way to observe this holiday which meant so much to them.

Keeping One’s Faith – A Conversation Between Author Doreen Rappaport and Holocaust Survivor Israel Cohen…

DR: What were your thoughts when Hanukkah came?

IC: I remembered how God helped the Jews overthrow the Greeks and chased them out of Israel so our people could observe the Torah. I thought about my family at Hanukkah, about my father’s joy and fervor when he lit the menorah. And then I knew we had to find a way to at least light Hanukkah candles and say the prayers. And we did. My spoon served as the menorah. Someone gave margarine that he had saved to be the oil. We unraveled threads from our uniforms and wove them into wicks and then lit the wicks.

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