OK, I’ll skip the rant. You know which rant. The one about Chanukah having become pretty much the sole marker of Jewish observance for many American Jewish families. Of course, I’m not expecting a flood of mass-market literary offerings about Tisha B’Av, but, hey, Purim’s fun. I guess I didn’t manage to skip it, after all.
Be that as it may, this book of Chanukah themed essays is a delight. Eighteen writers each contributed a heartfelt and thoughtful story, reminiscence, or opinion piece about Chanukah and about American Jewish life as each sees it from his or her personal perspective. Some of the contributors have a comfortable niche within that world; others lament or at least acknowledge that their perch is awkward or uncertain. As a whole, the book reflects the diversity and complexity of the American Jewish experience.
Of note are Jill Kargman’s reminiscence of Chanukah in Idaho, Jonathan Tropper’s humorous admission of an ulterior motive for joining the school choir, Edward Schwarzschild’s musings on the Maccabeestyle relationship he had with his brothers, Amy Klein’s Israeli Chanukah experience, and Eric Orner’s poignant story about a college student stuck in the dorm during winter break. Although these are standouts, each included essay is a quality contribution well worth reading.
So then, how do you spell Chanukah? The eighteen authors represented here would probably agree — you spell it any way that’s meaningful to you!
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.