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Beverly Kent Goldenberg
Life Member, Hadassah Greater Detroit

Chanukah: Eight Nights of Candle Lighting; Eight Nights of Reflection

Menorah lights in Israel on the sea. Photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Menorah lights in Israel on the sea. Photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Flame-throwing menorah at Detroit’s Downtown Synagogue. Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Downtown Synagogue photo courtesy of Hadassah.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, come light the menorah…in the window, where you can see my glow…”

First Candle – In Memory of Grandpa Jonas Keywell
Grandpa said he was born on Chanukah, the exact date unknown. Grandpa was my only grandparent alive during my childhood. Growing up, Daddy’s family gathered for Grandpa’s Birthday/Chanukah celebrations at our house.  My earliest Chanukah memories: I remember Grandpa seating on a folding chair, in a full-length apron peeling and grating potatoes for our latkes. They were piping hot and delicious, as were these special moments with Grandpa.

Second Candle – In Honor of The Levin Family Club
The Levins, my mother’s family started a family club 75 years ago. Meetings were held every Saturday night, with cards and munching all night long afterwards. We children often slept over until our weary parents had breakfast and took us home. Every year we celebrated Chanukah and Purim together. The Levin Family Club has survived. Although meetings became less frequent, holiday celebrations have continued. Chanukah is celebrated with a delicious dairy pot-luck meal, candle lighting, Chanukah songs, and our original Levin Family Club song, and, of course, games, entertainment and gifts too. I love seeing my cousins and catching up. The food is always delicious. The warmth and light of  the Chanukah candles reflect the warmth and light of our family relationships.

Third Candle – In Honor of Elaine Serling
Dedicated to my dear friend, a talented singer, composer and entertainer and in tribute to her Chanukah song, “If I were a Candle.” Elaine’s first album, “Sing and Celebrate” include her original songs for Jewish holidays. We love her fresh approach, and her songs were incorporated into our family life. Growing up, my kids sang her songs while riding in the car. “If I were a Candle” became a staple, incorporated into all family Chanukah celebrations. When our neighbor skating club put on a holiday show, my boys, Etai and Oren, performed their original skating routine to “If I were a Candle.”

Fourth Candle – In Honor of the Goldenberg Family
My husband Mickey’s family is from Israel. They introduced me to new ways and traditions to celebrate Chanukah. Each year, a special extended family celebration took place – first at his Aunt Paula’s home then continued by her daughter, Raya. There were endless songs sung in Hebrew and a delicious home-made Israeli treat, Suvganiot, (jelly donuts) which they called by their Yiddish/Polish name “Paczki.” We called the celebration “The Chanukah Paczki Party.”

Fifth Candle – In Honor of Israel
Since Mickey’s immediate family lived in Israel, we traveled often to visit. As the children were growing up, winter break was a convenient time to travel. There, we missed the beauty of the Christmas light displays, but were delighted by the beauty of the celebration of our Jewish holiday, Chanukah. Window boxes with chanukiah/menorahs sparkled in Jerusalem and Safed. Candle lighting celebrations took place in each city in the central square. A light projection of a menorah glistened against the Mediterranean Sea. It was a joy to see our holiday celebrated in public all over Israel, our Jewish country.

Sixth Candle – In Honor of the Chanukah Holiday
My son, Oren, then eight years old, stomped into the house screaming, “You ruined my life!” After he finished crying, he yelled “Why do you both have to be Jewish??” Finally, the explanation for his tantrum, “My friends get Christmas and chanukiah!”

At 16, Oren’s friends gathered at our house during winter break. There were tears and complaints about the Christmas gifts that they had received. One did not get anything on his list. Another cried, “my sister got beautiful things, look what I got!” I overheard Oren say, “I guess I am lucky. I got money for Chanukah. I can buy whatever I want.”

Seventh Candle – In Honor of the Downtown Synagogue
After college, Oren moved to Detroit and became involved at IADS – the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, the last free-standing synagogue in Detroit. We were introduced to the synagogue at their Chanukah Party / Annual Meeting. The synagogue was on the verge of collapse and contemplating the sale of the building. Oren and his young, newly involved, twenty-something friends became actively involved bringing the synagogue back to vibrant life.

Now, 13 years later, The Downtown Synagogue is a stable institution in the Greater Detroit Jewish community. With a full staff, after a capital campaign, the synagogue is in the midst of a building renovation. Last year, in honor of the synagogue’s 100th anniversary, Oren and his business partner, Matt, built a 10-foot flame throwing metal menorah which they lit in various locations of significance to the synagogue’s life. It was lit again this year at the Chanukah party /Annual Meeting. It’s now a permanent addition to their Chanukah celebrations.

Eighth Candle – In Honor of “The Paczki Award”
Mickey’s family’s Chanukah party in Detroit got more serious over the years. At first, it was who sang the last song. We sang and sang until the songs ran out. A prize was given to the ones who brought the last song. One year, it was Elaine Serling’s song. Then, the “Paczki Award” was created by his cousins: a statue to be awarded and inscribed with the winner’s name. The statue was to be taken home, proudly displayed, and returned to the Chanukah party the following year. The award was given to the most creative Chanukah song/program performed at the Chanukah party. This pushed lots of creative family performances. The most exciting for us was in 2019. Our eldest grandson, Leo, broke out in tears as he was awarded The Paczki Award which he proudly displayed at his home in St. Louis.

Oh Chanukah! I hope you had joyous, meaningful Chanukah celebrations, too.

Hadassah stands for Jewish values and traditions. Hadassah also stands up for women’s empowerment and leadership, and therefore strongly supports the role of Jewish woman as keepers of the flame of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs. I am proud to be a leader and member of a national organization with such a noble purpose.

About the Author
Beverly Kent Goldenberg has been a Life Member of Hadassah since 1968. She was born and raised in Detroit and is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled state-wide. Her English teachers always thought that she would become a journalist. Better late than never, she has been writing and publishing memoir pieces the past several years. Beverly and her Israeli husband, Michael, raised their two sons, Etai, a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker, in Huntington Woods, Michigan, where they still reside today. Beverly is Savta to four grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, and a grand-dog, Sparrow.
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