Monday, December 14, 2009

Hannukah O Hannukah

The first night we had a late dinner because Noah had to play his clarinet at the talent show and the second night we celebrated Laurence’s and Jonathan’s birthdays together with profiteroles. We lit the candles and the kids all got squirt guns as presents.

The third night was the night of the big Nicaragua Hannukah party. Another venture into the strange world that is the Nicaraguan Jewish Community. The party was at Kurt and Veronica’s house. I don’t really know them, but I did attend Veronica’s conversion ceremony. They invited every Jew in the whole country and most of them came. There were about 50 guests. First we pulled up to a block on the edge of town in Granada’s swankiest, half-built suburban development. Grassy lots alternate with modestly fancy houses; the roads aren’t paved. The property was surrounded by an unpainted ten foot high wall of cement blocks topped by coils of razor wire. There were no less than three National Police officers with guns and one private security guard sitting at the gate. I don’t know if it is a status thing or because there were some high ranking diplomatic types attending.

We said our hellos, and then found some seats. These guys may be rich, but it was still like every Nicaraguan party I have been to; there was still no mixing and mingling. Just this time the rented plastic chairs had elegant slip covers and were clustered around tables instead of being lined up around the wall of a dirt floored room. Thelma’s table was FULL and I was forced to sit with people I hardly knew. I really liked Paul and Grace though. Paul is from New Jersey and has lived in Managua for 12 years. Grace works for the company that runs my favorite cook ware store in Managua. Might be the only cook ware store in Managua.

The boys found Hobbes and a patio table far away from the grown-ups. Hors d’oevres had ham in them. The menorah was an enormous forged candelabra that held pillar candles and I hoped we wouldn’t have to wait for them to burn away before we could leave. Veronica was wearing a floor length purple halter dress with a pony tail and braces. She thanked everyone for coming and for all of the prayers and doctor’s help with Kurt’s successful hip replacements. This must be about the one year anniversary of their marriage.

Carlos explained a little bit about Hannukah and then the EU embassador to Central America’s Argentinian wife tried to light the first candle. She had to stand on tip toe and the fan kept blowing out the light. Now at my house, I solve this problem with a dessert plate to block the wind, but this is a six foot tall menorah. It was moved and was a little easier to light. The EU ambassador lit the next candle, and then the second in command at the US embassy. Mrs. Goldstein, the one from Argentina, led the singing with Maor Zur and other hannukkah songs. A few people joined in. The lights blew out, but it didn’t matter because people were getting food.

There was a long line and I decided to wait it out at Thelma’s table. Someone had given me a truly enormous glass of white wine and I was having trouble keeping languages straight which became an even bigger problem when Mr. Goldstein, the EU Ambassador himself came over and started talking to us in German. He did this because Jonathan had noticed he was German but didn’t quite realize how important he really was and had introduced himself to him in German earlier. We had a lovely chat about his hometown, Berlin, although I don’t feel I was at my best.

The cultural attaché from Ghana also does parties with his synthesizer for some reason and provided some very nice jazzy pieces and an assortment of Christmas songs. Someone put in a tape of Hava Nagila at some point but nobody danced. We left after the cake so the kids could get ready for school. On our way out, I asked Carlos if he wanted to join us in Granada for the last night of Hannukah. I knew it might be a problem because it is Shabbat, but Avi thought we should invite him anyway. He gave me a long and incomprehensible answer in English that included his boundaries for who is Jewish. I was sorry I asked.

Liberal Judaism has no voice here, perhaps because the liberal Jews don’t care to get involved in community standards. I don’t know. I am just a visitor. It is an interesting glimpse into the international Jewish community. People at this party were from all over the world and had very different backgrounds; they came together simply because they had some connection to being Jewish. I like being part of the international crowd. It makes me feel so . . . cosmopolitan.

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