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December 11, 1992 - Image 69

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Keeping The Flame Alive

By DOUG COTLER

Like so many others, my
grandmother's first step in America
was on Ellis Island. It was 1905.
She was 15. She had left her
parents in Russia, in a shtetl just
outside Slutsk, now a major
industrial city, but then a small
community not too far from Minsk
and Pinsk.
When I was a boy, these were
just funny sounding names; the
hardships and pogroms that had
driven my grandmother's family out
of their homes were rarely spoken
of. She was strong, hard-working,
resourceful and, as a mother, totally
dedicated to her family. She carried
within her an embrace of Judaism
that was directly out of Sholom
Aleichem. I have always seen her
as one of Tevye's daughters.
In her later years, she lived in
her daughter's home, and each
Shabbat she would light the candles
in a softly whispered ritual that was

Doug Cotler

a private, reverent moment for her.
Three grandsons, of which I am the
youngest, ususlly ricocheting loudly
from baseball diamond to
refrigerator as sundown
approached, would see the shawl
on her head and instantly go silent
and motionless. Her hands would
circle in the air the candles, and
then cover her face as she said the
Shabbat blessing.
After the special dinner she had
prepared was eaten, we would all
go to temple. My father was the
cantor. My grandmother loved him.
We all did. He was my inspiration.
As I listened to my father
stretching the notes and pulling the
emotion out of every prayer, I
remember thinking it remarkable
that my grandmother knew them all
by heart. She could read and
understand Hebrew, but these days,
most congregants repeat them
word-for-word ... usually with little
understanding of what they really
mean. But I'm not criticising. Ritual

is supposed to get you in the mood,
to center you, to get your mind off
the world outside the service.
My job, as a sweet singer of
Israel is to help the worshippers do
that, to lead them through the
words and into the heart and spirit
of what the ritual is all about.
Judaism requires emotion; it
demands passion. Embrace it, as
my grandmother did, and it will
envelop and protect you just as she
enveloped and protected it. She lit
those candles every week. For me,
a boy growing up as one of the only
Jews in a small farming town in

014 de4

California, she kept the flame alive.
To her and to the father who
showed me how to sing the sky, I
say:

To all my loved ones
here in my heart
Breath of my breath, part of my part
You're always with me.
Your love burns bright.
God bless and keep you
on this night.

Where there is light
Justice grows
And flows like a river of wine
All will be safe and free

Under the shade of the vine
Under the shade of the tree
This is how we survive
We remember and keep
the flame alive

from The Flame by Doug, Lanny
and Steve Cotler and Jeff Marx
@ 1990
Grammy-award-winning artist Doug
Cotler will perform Saturday evening
at 7•15 p.m. at the Agency for
Jewish Education in Southfield, in
cooperation with Jewish
Experiences For Families and The

Jewish News.

A Menorah Passes To Next Generation

By MARY KORETZ

We each lit our aygeneh
menorah, my 18-year-old aynikl and
I. She iz gekumen to live with me
some months after the death of my
husband. It was eingenemin having
her companionship and sharing the
Chanukah ritual with her. I had
never had to do it alayn and did not
look forward to a ayntsiker-person
performance.
The tsirtlech glow of the lit
menorahs dispelled the finsternish
with a strength that belied the small
size of the candles. We hobn
geshtanen momentarily lost in the
enchantment of seeing the velt
transfixed by the tiny lights.
We had prepared a milchig
meal, so that we could enjoy
smetena with our bulbe pancakes.
Laura Beth had set the fish with the
good china and stemware. Following
the moltseit we exchanged gifts in

AAAA A A I

A

an atmosphere of warmth and
festivity.
Noch three years my
granddaughter left to resume her
lebn in California. She hot gebetn
oyb she could take one of the
menorahs. It was the old one,
gemacht of brass, depicting the two
laybn of Judah guarding the Holy
Ark. I was pleased that, of aleh the
things in the hoyz, it was the one
she prized the most. Especially so
veil it was a tayl of my yerushe from
my mother-in-law, so that it was
passed on to still another
generation. I loved the feeling of
continuity.
When Chanukah rolled around
vider amol, I anticipated an elent
experience. As I lit my menorah, I
realized az I did not feel alone. I
hob gevust that Laura Beth in
California was also lighting a
menorah. The feeling of being
connected to her through this ritual
let me to derkinen the fact that I
had always felt, subconsiously,
connected to andere, particularly at
Jewish holidays. I had always felt at
one with farshidene members of my
family; with my fellow shiler in
shule; with my sister, mitglider in Na
Amat; with my students and co-
workers in Arbiter Ring. I also felt a
kinship with a host of Jews I had
met through my Jewish geshichte
books and finally, a mistish
relatonship with Jews yet unborn.
Being alayn was not being
lonely. Thanks to family practices
and a Jewish education, I possess a
comforting sense of identity and
continuity.

Vocabulary

aygeneh

own

aynikl
iz gekumen
eingenemin
alayn
ayntsiker
tsirtlech
finsternish
hobn geshtanen
velt
milchig
smetena
bulbe
tish
moltseit
noch
lebn
hot gebetn
oyb
gemacht
laybn
aleh
hoyz
veil
a tayl
yerushe
vider amol
elent
az
hob gevust
derkinen
andere
farshidene
shiler
shule
mitglider
Na Amat

Arbiter Ring
geshichte
mistish
alayn

granddaughter
had come
pleasant
alone
single
gentle
darkness
stood
world
dairy
sour cream
potato
table
meal
after
life
asked
if
made
lions
all
house
because
part
inheritance
again
lonely
that
knew
recognize
others
various
students
Jewish school
members
a Jewish/Israel
organization
Workmen's Circle
history
mystical
alone

Mary Koretz of Oak Park has taught
both children's and adult classes in L3
Yiddish at Workmen's Circle.

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