For the majority of my life, I lived in a very rural, and not-so-very-diverse community in south-central Alaska. When I was in third grade, my step-father got a job in Indiana and we all packed up and moved. It seemed to be quite and experience in differing cultures. My classmates embodied a large sampling of different religions, races, and ethnicities. I enjoyed learning about others beliefs, practices and heritages.
When the holidays got close, we began doing holiday-themed activities in my third-grade class. I remember asking the teacher if we could do some specific Christmas activity one day, but she said that we were going to be playing a game with a dreidel. I didn’t understand that it was a Jewish tradition to begin with, rather just a fun holiday game, but then one of the members of my group, a girl named Abby, spoke up and told me that she was Jewish and this was one of the games they played during the holidays!
I remember being fascinated with Abby’s stories, and asked her often about her religion and how she celebrated the holidays with her family and friends. She told me so much about it all. Our pod (the group of five desks assigned together) even approached the teacher about doing a Hannukah gift exchange. We focused a lot on Jewish tradition and Hannukah celebrations those couple weeks. Abby even invited me to attend services at her synagogue, which were amazing.
I am not a religious person, but I believe deeply that every religion has something positive to be gained from it, and the traditions associated with these religions have fascinated me for years. Whenever I think of Hannukah or Judaism, I always think back to Abby and the wonderful stories she told me about her own holiday experiences.