Hanukkah, like Christmas, is a festival of lights. Both fall in the dead of winter, near the winter solstice. Both are associated with cold, wintry weather, piled up snow for sledding. But in Los Angeles, winter holidays are warm and sunny, but the feeling of the holidays is not lost.
The Los Angeles Times reported about a Hanukkah party for 200 elderly Jewish people who contented themselves to sitting around, noshing on latkes. But, without warning many sprung to their feet, clapping to traditional Yiddish songs and performing 'the hora' a chain-like dance with people holding hands and encircling tables.
This was the scene at the end the Cafe Europa Hanukkah party on December 11, afternoon at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. All participants were jubilant and made no mention of their common bond: they are all Holocaust survivors.
"Every day is a holiday if we are still here," Sophie Hamburger, 93, told The Los Angeles Times, unrolling her sleeve to show the tattooed number etched on her left arm.
The Jewish Family Service is responsible for the Cafe Europa program, a social support group for survivors, who join together for entertainment outings, meals or educational sessions. The Hanukkah get-together featured a kosher lunch, a children's musical performance and dance.
Susie Forer-Dehrey, chief operating officer of the The Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles told the news service: "Many of them grew up without parents. Many lost children," she said. "The fact that they can come together and celebrate Hanukkah is truly a miracle, and Hanukkah is about miracles."
Dorothy Greenstein, 82, said at least two of her friends have died recently. "We are an endangered species," she said. Still, she enjoyed the festive fried jelly doughnuts.
This group, which went through horrific times, rarely stop to remember difficult times. They focus on the future and have fun in the moment.