Attending non Jewish school while I began discovering who I am was a struggle. Not being able to attend the “coolest” birthday parties because they were on Shabbat, not eating starbursts with everyone else due to gelatin, and not decorating a Christmas tree were constant struggles that made me question my religion at such a young age.
However, when Hanukkah rolled around each year, my religion was justified. Not only did I get EIGHT days of presents, but also a super inspiring story about my people.
When my mom or abba read me the story of Hanukkah each year, the superficiality of the holiday slipped away and I was in awe of the epic of the holiday.
I would wrinkle my nose in disgust at the thought of a pig touching the Holy of Holies. My eyes widened with fright during the battle scene, and I sighed with relief when the heroic Maccabees finally defeated the evil Greeks. And finally, I puzzled over the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days. It was my religion’s own Disney movie.
Although six year old me loved sufganiyots and getting a new American Girl Doll, the story of Hanukkah was my favorite part of the holiday. It was one of the first memories I have of being proud to be a Jew. It showed me the strength of Judaism. I learned the sense of empowerment that comes with being Jewish and having such incredible historical narratives.
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