How to Spell Chanukah

“What A Holiday! No Pestilence, No Slavery, No Locusts or Atonement. No Real Lesson To Be Absorbed And Passed Down To My Jewish Offspring.”

Eighteen Jewish writers extol, excoriate, and expand our understanding of this most merry of Jewish holidays. Original essays from Steve Almond, Peter Orner, Joanna Smith Rakoff and more.


“Despite a cheery title, the writers in this…book tackle their subject-and its attendant traditions of family, guilt and, well, tradition-with ambivalence, a real sense of soul-searching…trying to make peace with their Chanukah memories…their stories are clearly vivifying. There’s a great deal of kvetching over the influence and excess of Christmas, and not just its consumerism; Jill Kargman, for example, writes about some casual mid-sermon anti-Semitism at a midnight mass. There’s also solidarity to be found, as in Peter Orner’s story of growing up in a family of “Christmas-tree Jews”: “Let me be clear: we had no relationship with Christ beyond loving the mall like everyone else in America.” Standouts include graphic artist Eric Orner’s “Traditions Break,” a compact and involving story about a young woman’s first Chanukah alone; Joanna Smith Rakoff’s “Dolls of the World,” an accomplished troubled-family tale; and Josh Braff’s “The Blue Team,” which happily extols, “What a holiday…. No synagogue, no guilt, no mortar, and no real lesson to be absorbed and passed down to my Jewish offspring. Thank God.”

–- Publisher’s Weekly