By Gloria Hammer
Deep into a pandemic, Jewish families plan to celebrate Chanukah with the spirit of tradition and good memories from their childhoods. Two families shared how COVID has impacted their lives and how they hope to create a few new holiday memories for their young families.
Jaimie and Jacob Harper family
Jaimie is a fourth-generation Portland native, and Jacob was raised in Santa Rosa. Both have been on the front lines since the pandemic started. Jaimie is a palliative care social worker at Kaiser Permanente, and Jacob works at New Seasons Market.
It hasn’t been easy. Now they flex their schedules to accommodate work and being home to support their kids with Portland Jewish Academy’s distance learning. Reuben, 10, is a fifth grader, and Esther, 7, is a second grader. The family are members of Congregation Neveh Shalom.
Jaimie says her work with vulnerable people has become more intense with the virus. She works with physicians and nurses to care for people in their final months or years of life. She addresses both physical and emotional aspects of their illness and promotes their quality of life. The pandemic has added “a difficult layer to our conversations.” There is a lot of isolation.
“It is awful having to tell family members they cannot visit their loved ones in the hospital or make visits to their bedside,” says Jaimie. “Many of our patients … have had to say goodbye to loved ones by phone or video.” The intimate work has had to adapt to physical distancing requirements. “In the past, we could hold a patient’s hand.” Now she and those she works with are behind masks and face shields.
Reuben has a different take. “I am going to miss hanging out with my friends and family this year,” he says, adding, “I’m thankful for masks because we can still go places and see our friends and family if we social distance.”
The family also appreciates Zoom.
They look forward to sharing special holiday moments virtually, though they will miss gathering to eat latkes and sufganiyot. “Jacobs’s parents, Stephen and Muncie in Santa Rosa, and family in Portland have become accustomed to our virtual time together,” says Jaimie. “I anticipate we will have a night when we light our menorahs and celebrate with them and with other family.”
The family also expects to maintain most of their home Chanukah rituals. “We light the candles saying traditional prayers, exchange some gifts … but not every night,” says Jaimie. “We make homemade sufganiyot, jelly donuts, and send cards to family and friends. We may have more time, so maybe our gifts will be more creative and homemade. We will contribute to toy drives and support families in need.”
Both Jacob and Jaimie have fond memories of their parents making delicious latkes – Jacob’s mom for the synagogue Chanukah party and Jaimie’s parents, Teri and Mort, for the family Chanukah. Their favorite Chanukah memory as a couple is bringing their newborn son home on the fourth night of Chanukah in 2009 “just in time to light the menorah.”
Lighting the candles and enjoying the warm light of the menorah again will be a key focus. “In the past years, we have lit a family menorah along with helping the kids light their own homemade menorahs that they created at school,” says Jaimie. “This year we are looking forward to presenting our kids with their own special menorahs that they can light for years to come.”
Despite the stress caused by COVID, “Our family has been incredibly grateful to have such stability at a time when so many people’s lives have been radically shaken. We are fortunate to have our health, our home and work when so many have lost their jobs and incomes. We realize the privilege we have that many others do not enjoy. It is our hope we will acknowledge our many blessings and the inequalities around us as we light the Chanukah candles.”
Lindsay and Joel Krivosha family
Lindsay Kantor grew up in SW Portland and met Joel Krivosha on a blind date when she moved to Seattle after college. Joel grew up on Mercer Island. They moved to Portland while they were engaged.
Lindsey is a financial advisor working at Baird. Joel is a customer experience manager for Akamai Technologies. Both are working from home due to the pandemic, and their children are home with a nanny. Eddie, 6, is a first grader at West TV Elementary School, and Abby, 4, normally attends preschool downtown.
Lindsay’s holiday childhood memories feature annual Chanukah parties with other Jewish families. Volunteering with Congregation Beth Israel to serve hot meals to the homeless on Christmas is another tradition she associates with Chanukah: “Chanukah celebrates freedom from oppression and helping those in need is part of expressing our freedom.”
Joel was always close with his cousins, and they have had an annual Krivosha Chanukah White Elephant party for as long as he can remember. It is “a blast” that they will miss this year.
Making Chanukah really special for their kids is high on their list every year. In the past, since the kids don’t attend a Jewish school, they have dressed in dreidel costumes and taken Chanukah treats and games to their children’s classes. “We also threw a big Chanukah party last year, where they each got to choose a few families to invite. Although we can’t do it this year, we plan to continue in the future.”
This year will be different, but the couple want to make this year super special with extra baking, cooking and decorating. The kids love to decorate the house, and Lindsay thinks this year they will take it to a new level. “I have a feeling they’ll get a few extra presents this year,” she says. “My heart hurts for them when I watch them attend virtual school every day.”
Joel and Lindsay also want to help their children understand the importance of helping in their community. “We plan to make this year more about the greater good. This is an incredibly difficult time in our country,” says Lindsay. “We will be involved and participate in a toy and clothing drive for children less fortunate than our kids.” Eddie and Abby will get to choose items they think other kids would enjoy.
Lindsay says not being able to gather with friends for Chanukah is the saddest part.
“We are helping by staying home and stopping the spread of the virus,” says Lindsay. “The kids really understand that, and it’s a lesson in responsibility and empathy that will hopefully stay with them.”
The holidays are a great opportunity to open conversations to help their kids grow into compassionate, kind people. Both parents started talking about bigger topics with Eddie and believe he can grasp the things going on in the world. They carefully talk to him about the virus and how their job is to protect the vulnerable, about the civil unrest and that their family believes in the equal rights of all people and that they have a responsibility to protect the planet.
“Don’t get me wrong, they will get plenty of fun and toys,” says Lindsay. “After all they are going to be stuck inside all winter.”
Abby says, “I’m grateful for presents and staying up late on Chanukah, but the thing I miss most are my swimming lessons.”
Eddie has learned how to ride a bike. He really misses his friends, but he is getting better and better at being away from them.
“We are trying to look at the time spent at home with our young kiddos as a gift,” says Lindsay, adding they are making new memories in a smaller setting.