Hanukkah party

Benin, West Africa

Dec. 2003

My most exotic memories of Hanukkah are pretty recent. Only last Hanukkah, I spent in Benin, West Africa, as a Fulbright scholar teaching at the Institut de maths et sciences physiques for a year.

I taught more than math and computer science, as I was the only Jew in Benin, to my knowledge. I was well received as Jesus' sister and people were eager to learn anything about my religion.

So for Hanukkah I invited about 50 people, including local musicians, students, faculty, some French neighbors, and the German ambassador and his wife who became good friends. I would have had more French at the party but most were mourning friends who died at a tragic plane crash that just happened miles away a couple days before.

My husband and my cook and his apprentices were busy cooking in the kitchen while I entertained, lighting the candles and telling the story of the missing and found oil. The musicians played African music on djambe (tamtams), guitar, and sax.

When the latkes came out the German ambassador exclaimed that it was German food. Both he and his wife were delighted to refind their home food. For sufganiot (doughnuts) I used a local smaller pastery and just showed people how to stuff it themselves with marmalade or honey. Again, the German ambassador exclaimed that it was German food and helped devour it.

Of course the Beninese, the French and the rest of us had a ball. For pictures from the event, check my journal at my Benin site or go directly to pictures from the party

If you are over 18 you may check this site, in French