Hava nagila venis'mecha
A SPECIAL MEMORY DURING THIS TIME, HANUKKAH
Hava naglia venis’mecha, let us rejoice and be happy.
Ah, the Festival of Lights brings fond memories to my krusty mind as I reflect on my nana Gaby. She was an old woman beyond her years fore she survived Auschwitz and the horrors therein. Frail yet strong she was the one person in my childhood who truly was a hero to my mom and me.
Surrounded by a world filed with racial hatred we would not have survived if it were not for this old Jewish lady. She taught us how to live in this ambivalent world and to smile in the face of anger as people used to spit on us for the color of our skin. The 50’s was a very cruel time for us since it was not vogue to be Native back then.
I can still remember the smell of cooked cabbage and the taste of Latkes the way Gaby used to make them. We would play the DreidelGame and I would be elated with the gelts I gathered and got a taste for chocolate. A flavor that was new to me back then. She would tell stories of the Maccabees as I sat wide eyed as her hero’s became mine. I miss the taste of Sufganiyots, it reminded me of frybread but it was the stories she would tell my mom and I while we all sat in the kitchen. She would wear long sleeved clothing most of the time. But when she was cooking she would roll up her sleeves and that’s when I first saw her tattoo. But back then I was too young to understand what it meant.
She taught us how to survive when people used to spit on us when we walked down the busy streets. As we faced persecution from the conquering people we would sing songs in light of all adversity. I could not understand why people hated us so much since we truly did not know these people. Gaby was the calm in a world of anger and her memory will forever be in my heart and during this time of the miracle of the oil lamp I break out my Menorah and retain the teachings from this old Yiddish woman.
Sh’ma Yisreal, Adonaye Elokaynu, Adonaye Echod.
Baruch Shayum K’vod Malchuto L’olam vaed.
B’yado afkeed ruche, b’ayt eershan v’ah-ee-ra V’im ruche g’veeya-ti,
Adonaye lee v’lo eera.
I owe her my intellect, love of the arts and music since we used to play imaginary instruments together. We had nothing but we had everything and made roses out of weeds. Peter and the Wolf was a favored tune of mine since I would perform for her and my mother with imaginary drums and horns to their delight. She was our sanctuary in a world we did not understand or comprehend.
Only later in life did I come to realize the true horrors she endured and the real reason for her tattoo. And it became apparent to me what she was teaching us back then fore she was showing us how she survived in a time of true madness.
Gaby told us that we were the lost tribe of Israel and I’m inclined to believe her since our struggle as a Native people was the mirror image of the children of Abraham. If only Gaby could see what I have done with the knowledge and culture she planted deep within my persona. She is my inspiration and the guiding light as I forge a path through these troubled times. I have become the voice of the voiceless and the forgotten and I know she would be proud.
I will always love you Gaby and I will never forget you, Shalom
Creativity is the byproduct of a fertile mind