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The Eight Crazy Nights at Handmaker are over, for now...

by Nanci Levy | Dec 17, 2018

Menorah at ShabbatThe winter holiday season is always an interesting time for the Jewish people in the Diaspora. Christmas seems to be everywhere, and since we do not celebrate it, we sometimes feel a little left out. The solution seems to be, here in America, to make Hanukkah a big deal. And we certainly try to make it a big deal for residents at Handmaker, and include everyone in the celebrations.

We light the candles and say the blessings in each and every Handmaker neighborhood every night to make sure that everyone gets touched by the light of Hanukkah, no matter their faith. Every night there were residents around the menorah in every neighborhood ready to celebrate.

In addition to lighting the candles and saying the blessings, we try to plan a different activity each night of Hanukkah. This year we were so grateful to have the Sparks Club from the Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Louchheim and members of Congregation Or Chadash, the Jurkowitz Family, and the Tucson Hebrew Academy 6th Grade Class with Rabbi Billy at Handmaker. Each group came one night to sing the blessings and Hanukkah songs, play dreidel and otherwise help our residents celebrate.

And there were many memorable moments this Hanukkah.

It is always a pleasure to make potato latkes during Hanukkah for our residents. They appreciate seeing and smelling the latkes sizzling in the pan. I have made them for the last few years in the Rubin dining room. And after I am done there, I especially like walking around the building giving out all of the extra latkes to Handmaker staff. There were several people this year who have never heard of or tasted a latke, and I was happy to introduce them!

Lighting the menorah in the Kalmanowitz Memory Care neighborhood was special this year. One of our residents, who had not been very verbal the last few times when I had visited, did not want to sing the blessings with me the first night. But on the second night she started asking me questions about Hanukkah, and agreed to come over to the menorah while I sang the blessings with another resident. The next night, she needed little urging, and she ended up singing the blessings with me and another resident every night for the remaining nights of Hanukkah.

And in the Tynan Neighborhood, on the first night of Hanukkah I told the story of Hanukkah, and explained why we celebrate by lighting the menorah and playing dreidel. Many of the residents who were there were not Jewish, but curious and wanting to celebrate with us. It was fun to see that by the 8th night of Hanukkah, most were singing the blessings and songs along with everyone else, and many understood that Gimel meant that they get it all!

Most nights when I went to the Rich Skilled Nursing Neighborhood, there was a group of long term care residents waiting patiently for me around the menorah, with smiles on their faces. On the last night, one of our oldest residents just did not feel up to getting out of her chair in her room to come to the menorah. So, we brought the menorah, and the party, to her. She was so grateful. And, it was so special to have a group of residents crowded around the menorah in her room singing the blessings and songs.

I am so fortunate to have the health and energy to move from one Handmaker neighborhood to the next to bring the light of Hanukkah to all of our Handmaker residents, regardless of their faith. And we all especially love the nights when we are lucky enough to have groups come to help light the candles and play dreidel. These groups bring fresh energy, connect with our residents, and seem to get as much joy from their visit as they bring.

When I got to the last Handmaker neighborhood on the eighth night, and sang the last Hanukkah song of the year, I have to admit that it was with a mixture of sadness and relief...until next year, when we begin again.

We hope that whatever holiday you celebrate is filled with love and light, and that you and your families have a healthy and happy new year!

And please, let me know if you want to come celebrate Hanukkah at Handmaker next year with our residents. We would love to have you here! Just email me at nlevy@handmaker.org.