Our family came together with the community at the Aloha Jewish Chapel at Joint Base Pearl Harbor…literally.
After several relaxing, peaceful, child free days, my husband picked up our younger girl from Camp Erdman in Mokuleia on the North Shore and drove straight to Pearl Harbor. I brought the teenager from hula practice and we reconvened as a family for Friday night services and Chanukkah celebration.
I met my husband the first time I attended the Aloha Jewish Chapel (AJC) almost nine years ago. My very long time friend Dan Bender who leads the services at the Chapel introduced us. Much of our early courtship was spent sitting side by side at Friday night services. We progressed to marriage from there.
Before I went to AJC I wasn’t aware that there is a vibrant Jewish community in the military. I didn’t know much about the military in general. It was out of my realm of experience. I’ve learned a lot since then, considering I married a Jewish soldier and am now, among other things, an Army wife.
The Aloha Jewish Chapel was built in the 1970′s and is the first free-standing Jewish chapel built by the United States government exclusively for Jewish worship. Besides being a special place in terms of history, we like it because our friend, Dan, leads the services.
I’ve known Dan since I was in college in L.A.. We both taught Hebrew at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills and found each other again after I moved to Hawaii over 20 years ago. We go way back.
Our family enjoys Friday night services at AJC and our local Temple Emanu-El, but more often find ourselves at Pearl Harbor due to the proximity to our house and not having to drive in Friday evening traffic to get there.
Last night was a nice community celebration. A mixed crowd of retired military, young active duty couples, various dependents and local guests came together for latkes, dreidle and song.
We were happy to see the Donlins there and I took a picture of the Kamehameha grads with my teenager happy that they are a great role model for my Jewaiian girl.
Rachel Haymer played the ukulele and led us as we sang, “Light One Candle,” “Rock of Ages” and “Not by Might.” Always one to appreciate the meaning in the moment, I was moved by the lyrics that pay tribute to the Maccabees and the “Pain they endured, when their right to exist was denied,” and the call to “Light one candle to bind us together with peace as the song in our heart.”
My spirit is renewed and refreshed by an evening with family and community in common celebration. Happy Hanukkah.