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Mort Laitner

Freedom from fear

"The Head of Woman and a Child", study to the "Massacre of the Innocent" by Léon Cogniet (1794-1880), ca 1824; Museum of Fine Arts in Orleans.

One week before Hanukkah, my better half asked me two questions I thought I’d never hear.

“Honey, should I put out the Hanukkah lawn decorations this year? Do you think it’s a good idea? I fear it may lead to problems. Who knows if there are any pro-Palestinians or neo-Nazis living in our town. Almost every evening on the news, I see those bastards holding rallies or marches all across Florida. They’re waving Palestinian or Nazi flags. Flags bearing swastikas. It scares me.”

I looked into her brown eyes and without skipping a beat said:

Honey, just do it!

You know, it’s one of my favorite Hanukkah traditions. For eight nights, I love going outside and watching the dreidel spin and those blue and white lights flicker. I get a warm feeling that says, “I’m proud to be a Jew living in a great nation.”

Not putting the decorations on the lawn sends the wrong message. It’s like saying we’re afraid to be Jews. It’s like we’re trying to conceal our identities. When American college kids hide their yamakas, or their chai’s or the Jewish stars they wear on their chests, the antisemites win. Those kids are showing fear. What’s next they’re afraid to go to the Hillel House or to shul. I recall as a kid, when I lived in fear because some bully threatened to beat me up. He threatened to punch me in my head or in my gut. I hid from him. Fear is a dreadful feeling. The anxiety eats you up. Sixty years later, the bitter after taste of fear still lives in my mouth. You know that bullies love cowards and we ain’t cowards.

And you also know that I’m well prepared. I got my .45 Smith and Wesson police special. Yup, the pistol I take to the gun range. The one I keep next to a bunch of ready-to-shoot bullets in my gun case. I’m ready. If anybody messes with our menorah or dreidel, I’ll put the first shot in the air as a warning. If the haters don’t run and I’m in fear of my life, who knows where the next shot goes? They’ll get the message loud and clear. We Jews aren’t taking any of their antisemitic shit.

“Honey, you’ve been putting our four-foot high, blue and white electric menorah and our three-foot high, motorized yellow and green spinning dreidel on our lawn for over 40 years. It’s our tradition. The kids and I cherish that tradition. It’s part of our wonderful life. We can’t let fear take that away from us. Hatred can’t hold us hostage. Fear, like cancer, eats the joy out of life. That’s why Israel has to wipe out Hamas. They don’t want their children to live in fear.

Honey, just do it.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
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