Sukkah Memories

Being an empty nester on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot is not for lightweights. No more little helpers eager to hang all those adorable and by now faded and partially crushed sukkah decorations made in school over the years. No more little voices begging to spend the night under the stars, barely sheltered by the brush and bamboo we use as a sukkah roof, nestled into sleeping bags cuddling with their mamma on sheepskins and air mattresses. No more raucous gatherings with teens wolfing down pizza and junk food, leaving a mess, but non the less doing it in the sukkah and thereby performing the mitzvah of “le-shev be-sukkah“—to sit in the sukkah.

Not only are my boys no longer living at home, but I am also temporarily (but voluntarily) displaced, and so have not put up a sukkah this year. In order to feel the closeness of my three sons whom I miss even more intensely than usual whenever a holiday comes around, I group-texted them a holiday greeting with a question: What is your favorite memory from growing up celebrating Sukkot?

Their sweet responses made me laugh out loud while I relished their memories, vividly seeing each of them in their own articulation of holiday enjoyment:

Tobi, my oldest, the peace-maker and gentle soul with a sweet tooth, said he fondly recalled all the “joyous Sukkot meals with lots of different guests…And the honey on the challah” (a family tradition we started was to dip the challah in honey for the WHOLE month of Tishrei).

Gabi, my middle son, the foodie with the competitive edge who is wooed by all things great, loved the sukkah hops, and “getting to see who had the best snacks and the coolest set-up.” He added, “I remember the Feigenbaums always had junk food and we always had the most fun sukkah!”

And Benya, my youngest, the pensive creative spirit and practical problem-solver, remembered how much he enjoyed “setting up the sukkah and making it look nice with all the ornaments and art from school.”

For a few precious moments the boys felt as if they were huddling right next to me reminiscing, and I was tickled to see how their memories corresponded in quality to each unique character. This in turn reminded me of how it’s our individual nature that feeds and shapes our memories.

Chag sameach! Happy Sukkot!

May your family holiday memories be as brilliant as the stars in the sky!

Sukkot Chabad

Photo credit: Chabad.org

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“Séph-Arabe” – About Imagining an Alternate Bridge

Hamsa4Jews and Arabs. Right off the bat, you probably think about conflict, but it hasn’t always been that way. Did you know that less than 60 years ago, Islamic lands in North Africa and the Middle East was the home to almost 1 million Jews? Jews that for many generations shared the Arab majority culture with their neighbors. A Jewish baby would nurse from the same breast as an Arab baby.

Imagine Arab Jews. Jews that identify positively, even passionately, with this culture. Jews who refuse to see the two terms as mutually exclusive. For that would negate who they identify as.

Today there are 0 Jews left of Algeria’s 140,000 Jewish inhabitants before 1948. 1,100 left of Tunisia’s 105,000; 60 left of Iraq’s 135,000….3,200 left of Morocco’s 365,000 Jews. The last kosher butcher of Marrakech is an old man who just opens his store to have a place to sit during the day. He has almost no customers left.

Mind you some of these Jewish communities predated the Arab conquest in the 7th century C.E., as they had landed there after the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem in years 586 B.C.E. (by the Babylonians) and 70 C.E. (by the Romans) respectively.

The modern Jewish exodus from Arab lands – since 1950’s – was not easy for the families involved. Nor was it easy for their Arab neighbors to be left with the vacuum that was created. Relationships were lost. Scars and traumas resulted. Problematic memories constructed.

Literature and art was created to express these experiences.

I write about this in my “Academic Stuff.”

For those of you with an interest in literature and Jewish cultures in general, and Jewish culture of the Arab world in particular, or if you would simply like to read an article that will doubtlessly give you something to think about, check out my “North Africa, France, and Israel: Sephardic Identities in the Work of Chochana Boukhobza” published here:

http://sephardichorizons.org/Volume3/Issue2/Identities.html

As I note in my article, Boukhobza has written many extraordinary novels in French, some prize-winning, and If you are a Francophone, you can order them from Amazon.fr. It’s pricy, but they do ship to the U.S, of course!

One of her books is published in English: The Third Day, available on Amazon.com.

You can read about it here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Third-Day-Chochana-Boukhobza/dp/0857050966/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399000562&sr=8-1&keywords=boukhobza+the+third+day

And one is translated to English, (by yours truly) and is looking for a publisher: For the Love of the Father (or Pour l’Amour du Père) which I discuss in my article linked above.

So call your publisher friend today, who owes you a favor, and spread the word!

Yalla! (= “Let’s go!” in Arabic)