Friday, December 21, 2012

A Harmonica for Hanukkah

One of the cruel realities of going to a Jewish Day School is the annual Chanukah Zimriyah.  Recollections of Cantor Tessler drilling us with Maoz Tzur for hours still haunt my dreams, and sweat drips down my back every time I think of doing Mi Y’malel in a round.

My class never got any truly great songs to sing; mostly, we handled the classics.  I have a memory of my sister’s class once singing, “I Got A Harmonica For Chanukah”.  When they busted out kazoos for one of the verses, I knew that I had found my favorite Chanukah song of all time.

“I know lots of boys
who got electric toys,
But I got a harmonica for Chanukah.
Some got two wheel bikes,
Some got flying kites.
But I got a harmonica for Chanukah.
I’m not complaining,
I’m not complaining –
Cause I know some little boys and girls
that didn’t get anything.”

I received some really thought out nice presents for Chanukah, and I am certainly not complaining about that.  I definitely could have used some electric toys, but I’m good.  No complaints.

For gifts, we do all right in Okinawa.  Toys for Tots cleans up each year, and I haven’t seen a single truly sad face near Santa in the Exchange.  But one of the realities of living in Okinawa is that Jewish supplies are not always available.  They can be ordered (or sent) before the festival, but there is not telling when they will get here. 

This year, we had a shortage of dreidels, but sharing is ok.  This year, we got no chocolate gelt.  The dentists rejoiced, and the holiday went on.  This year, we received no new metal menorahs to give out to the single Sailors and Marines.  Should they want to buy a menorah, there were none available in any of the stores on island.  This year, we got no candles.

So what do you do when you see that there are no candles left and people keep calling asking for them?  RP told me that he could get some PVC piping from the construction shop and make candles.  RP is highly industrious.  While that would be neat, and I would certainly enjoy the art project – I felt there had to be a better way.

Worried about telling people that they couldn’t celebrate Chanukah, I really thought hard about what to do.  And then it came to me: Catholics use a lot of candles.  I talked to my friend, Father Gelinas, the Catholic Chaplain on Camp Foster; he was more than willing to part ways with a couple hundred candles.  “That’s what we do for each other; it shouldn’t have even been a question.” 

Father Gelinas is a good guy, but he is also steeped in the ethos of the Navy Chaplain Corps.  We are the facilitators for all faith groups and care for all regardless of faith group.  In this season of perpetual Christmas specials and jolly music, Chanukah lived on – because of a Catholic priest. Go figure!

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