“Dinner’s ready,” my mother called from the kitchen.
My friends and I began to sit around the dinner table. Freya, Ana, Dan, Ian, Brittany, Breena, and I took our seats. The table was clad with latkes, challah, and dreidels for us to play with. We were celebrating Hanukkah! Of this group of friends, I was one of two who was Jewish. So, for the most part, this was their first experience of the holiday.
“Look,” Ian shouted, “Big potato chips!”
“No Ian, these are called latkes,” I told him.
Ian tucked his head, some because he was embarrassed, but mostly because he was trying to hold in a laugh. They looked at the table, confused, yet excited. They weren’t sure what everything was, or how to eat it.
“So… what’s that?” asked Breena
“Well, this is called Challah. It’s just bread really,” I informed.
The crowd around the table hummed with soft, quiet laughter.
“Oh,” laughed Breena, “How do you spell that?”
Dan, only other Jewish one, chimed in, “C-H-A-L-L-A-H… Challah.”
“Wait, wouldn’t that be pronounced chala?” Ian asked, “Haha, but you said CCCHHHH. With phlegm.”
I heard my mother laugh at Ian’s comment from her office. In fact, everyone at the table promptly began to laugh until tears flowed from their eyes. Once Ian’s comedic glory was over, and their laughter began to die down, we all began to eat. As my friends ate, I heard groans of approval around the table. They enjoyed experiencing these new flavors from a completely new culture. My mom even had to make more latkes because they were gone in the first 15 minutes.
That night, they all, except for Dan, celebrated this holiday for the first time, and they celebrated with me! And they seemed to like it. We laughed, we ate, we talked, we played games. They stepped into my shoes of what I had been experiencing my whole life. They embraced my culture. And apart from the occasional oblivious comments from Ian, they did not judge or degrade. They accepted the holiday, they accepted the religion, and they accepted me. For this, I am grateful.