What It Feels Like When Someone Wishes Me ‘Happy Hanukkah’

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Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. This was taken from outside my home, looking into the front window.

I grew up in a conservative, Christian state where most people say Merry Christmas. And that’s fine.

I usually say Happy Holidays. I never take offense to a greeting of the season, regardless of how it’s spoken. But something warm and precious emerges when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah.

Let me paint a picture for a moment:

When you grow up as a religious minority, you’re used to society overlooking your holiday. It’s nothing that bothers or insults you. Therefore, you never think twice when someone gives you a Christmas card, or a Santa hat, or an ornament. You appreciate it.

Yet, I’ve never forgotten the boss who bought me a Hanukkah card my first year on the job—accompanied by a bottle of wine—or the friend who texts me the first night of Hanukkah every year. Precisely because I don’t expect it, when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, they enter a special place in my heart and mind.

For me, those two simple words permeate deeper than the typical holiday greeting.

They say, “I see you. I recognize you. I understand this is your holiday, and I want to acknowledge that.” They say, “I accept you. I welcome you. And I hope you have a lovely Festival of Lights.”

I make it my mission to wish people whatever holiday they celebrate. For most of my friends or colleagues, I say Merry Christmas. I’ve wished a Happy Kwanza. And I say Happy Holidays when I don’t know someone’s religion.

Rarely, however, do I receive a Happy Hanukkah. When I do, it makes my heart dance. I rejoice in sharing the miracle and delight of my holiday with others, just as so many spread Christmas cheer wherever they go.

I know people do not say Happy Hanukkah for a variety of reasons: they’re shy, or they’re unsure of the correct greeting, or they think I also celebrate Christmas. Some people just don’t know. That’s okay.

But for the occasional person who acknowledges my holiday directly, thank you for making my smile glow just a little brighter.

How Entering the Obama Era from Israel Helps Me Come to Terms with Trump

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I wrote this narrative/op-ed on Jan. 20, 2017–the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated. I submitted it to a couple of publications, but it was never accepted fast enough to be timely. I hate to see it go to waste, and therefore decided to publish it here. I thought some of you might enjoy the read or perhaps find it insightful.

How Entering the Obama Era from Israel Helps Me Come to Terms with Trump

Written by Shari Lopatin on Jan. 20, 2017

Eight years ago today, I sat crammed into a tiny Tel Aviv hotel lobby with 30 Jews who were strangers days before, and together, we watched Barack Obama become the President of the United States of America.

When we boarded our El Al flight to Israel about a week prior for our Birthright trip, we’d left our country still swimming in the Bush era. I was the only Jew from Arizona and felt nervous at first, knowing not a name in our group. But after riding camels through the desert and sleeping in Bedouin tents scattered throughout the Negev together, we’d become like family, and I watched alongside these newfound friends 6,700 miles away as our country’s tides changed on Jan. 20, 2009.

I come from a state that leans conservative and Christian. I’d never been surrounded by others who believed as I do, or voted as I do, or survived anti-Semitism like I had. It not only felt safe to cheer as I watched Obama take his oath of office, but electric and freeing, like the adrenaline of a raging river or, as one of my travelmates said, “winning the World Series.”

For us, this was our first political victory. When I’d cast my virgin ballot at age 18, the year was 2000 and George W. Bush had won. Then, 9/11 rocked our nation and although I’d supported our involvement in Afghanistan, I’d protested Iraq from the beginning. Somewhere deep in my bones, I knew this war would change the future of the U.S. and the world.

The taste of triumph, I’ve learned, has a sweet but perilous flavor. I was young and hopeful when Barack Obama took office, and over the coming years, I flourished. The Affordable Care Act—known to many as Obamacare—granted me freedom to leave a full-time job and afford an individual health plan while I started a business. The tax credit for first-time homebuyers in 2009 allowed me the financial flexibility to buy my first house.

Under Obama, I became Middle Class America. I prospered. And I’m dang thankful for it.

But as I said, the taste of triumph has a sweet, yet perilous flavor. I grew used to winning, and in my elation, became numb to the fury developing in the underbelly of our country. Not everyone moved forward like I did, and in their anger, many turned to a man who manipulates emotion to gain power.

Today, that man stands in the spot Obama did as I watched from a boxed television set in Israel, and I find myself feeling alone again. In my despair, I close my eyes and like a wind funnel sucking me through time, I fall into that scrunched Tel Aviv hotel lobby eight years ago, surrounded by rejuvenation and faith and acceptance.

That moment, though fleeting, will survive through eternity in all of us, and I tell myself—even as we enter an era of uncertainty and darkness—Yes We Can.

Shari Lopatin is a writer, journalist and storyteller with more than 10 years in media and communication. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and prefers to concentrate on the micro and macro effects of social issues.

Chompie’s for the Writer’s Soul (Special Post)

I’m shocked I’m not a fat tub of lard today–after all the Chompie’s I eat.

This is the first line of my first guest post, as an official blogger (I guess). The topic? The power of comfort food for creativity.

I’ve been published in magazines all over, but I’ve only been blogging about six months. Therefore, when fellow professional writer and blogger, Leah Singer, invited me to post on her site, “Leah’s Thoughts,” I couldn’t resist!

Come and join the fun. Read about how Chompie’s has changed my life as a writer, how comfort food can inspire YOUR creativity, and share which foods relax you. Read my guest post, Chompie’s for the Writer’s Soul.”

My Jewish Cat and the Art of Guilt

My Jewish cat, Chance, who has skillfully learned the art of guilt

When hungry, most cats drill their “servants” with shrilling meows, driving them into madness. Not my cat.

Instead, he’s taken another route, skillfully learning the art of Jewish guilt. He doesn’t need to meow. In fact, he protests with complete silence, accompanied by “the look.”

I first noticed Chance had acquired this divine power last weekend, on a Saturday morning. I’d slept in that day, awoken by my own urgency to use the bathroom. Of course, curled up next to me in a furry ball, was the purring Chance.

As I left the bathroom to climb back into bed for a few extra minutes of rest, he merely climbed on top of my belly to cuddle. Thirty minutes later, as I slid into my slippers, he gently followed me down the stairs of my house. Five minutes later, he quietly sat in the kitchen as I prepared my Saturday morning coffee, toasted my bagel and prepared some salmon lox.

When I turned around to the pantry, I saw it.

There, poised gracefully next to an empty food bowl and a dry water dish, sat Chance. His black tail neatly curled around the confounds of his white paws. His fluffy chest held back in an upright position exuding a quiet dignity. And his blue eyes, patiently staring up at me from a dipped head, as if to say, “Did you forget to feed me, Mom? Do you not love me anymore?”

Immediately, I rushed to his side, drowning him in apology after apology, reassurance after reassurance. He received wet food that day, along with a full bowl of freshly filtered, cool water.

Chance understands the power of Jewish guilt, unlike the other whining cats who paw at their servants’ faces in the morning. He understands that time is his ally, not his enemy. And with a little patience, the rewards will far outweigh the wait.

Since this divine power was bred into me, I’ve remained immune to it throughout my life—well, except from my father. Yet, it was a cat who finally broke through the wall, took my heart hostage, and now uses it to wield his will.

And I know from this day forward, I’m in trouble. Big, big trouble.