I am a quarter Jewish but my involvement in the religion and its activities is limited, to say the least.  I would like to take a quick moment to share an experience that I had being just a little bit Jewish in South Carolina…

First, I am not very Jewish. In fact, I do not think my Jewish grandfather was even very Jewish. As a child, Hanukah celebrations were limited to lighting the Menorah for eight days and wrapping my grandfather’s Christmas presents in Hanukah paper.  The Christmas tree never burst into flames when the Hanukah presents sat underneath, so I guess nobody upstairs took too much offense.  

Now that I think of it, considering all the waste that goes into wrapping presents, we probably saved a few trees along the way.  I mean, for years Pop-Pop’s gifts did not require labels because we just knew that anything wrapped in light blue paper with Menorahs and Stars of David on it were for him.  I am sure Mother Nature smiled upon us even if Jesus and Santa were a bit confused. I digress…

The point is that to this day I celebrate the same way and light the Menorah every year just as I have done since I was a child. Ivan helps and I teach him the story of Hanukah if for no other reason but for the family history of it.  With this year’s start of Hanukah I am reminded by my efforts to purchase candles for the Menorah last year.  

I was working in Mauldin at the time so I decided to kill part of a lunch hour with a quick trip to the store for Hanukah candles. I tried Publix first since I have purchased them there in the past (albeit, not in Mauldin).  I was not prepared for the conversation that I was about to experience:

Me: I’ve looked all over for Hanukah candles but I don’t see them. Do you guys have them anywhere?

Publix Star #1: Have you looked at the candle section?

Me: Yeah, but they’re just decorative and scented candles, not what I’m looking for. If you don’t have them, no big deal…

Publix Star #1:  Will birthday candles work?

Me: Ummm... It’s cool man, I’ll check somewhere else.

Publix Star #1: No wait. <screaming down the aisle> Where do we keep the “Hanookah” candles at?!

Publix Star #2 <walking up>: Did you check the Jewish section?

Me: You mean the matzo ball mix? Yeah, no dice.

Publix Star #2: Oh, I remember. They’ll probably go up in a big display with the Christmas stuff next week. 

Me: Hanukah ends two weeks before Christmas this year. It will be over next week. 

Both Publix Stars: <blank stares>

From here, I wandered over to Bi-Lo with even lower expectations.  Instead of wandering the aisles, I went straight to the customer service desk and actually got to ask the store manager for help. After a bit of quick research he determined that his store <drum roll please> did not carry Hanukah candles.  This was what I expected and I was content to wander off empty handed.  

Mr. Bi-Lo Store Manager, however, was not content for me to just wander off. He saw me as a victim and, as a victim, his simple apology was not going to cure my suffering.  He actually told me that it was “wrong” for Bi-Lo not to stock Hanukah candles and that he was going to “write an e-mail to corporate” about how unfair this is. He then apologized not just to me but to my “people”. 

I am a quarter Jewish and I light the Menorah in the same room as the Christmas tree. My beliefs and my background are spread so far across the board that I am not sure any church really wants me any more than I want them.  On this day, however, I was the most Jewish guy ever to step foot in Mauldin, South Carolina. 

So I went and bought a bagel.