Chanukah at Dorit Paul’s

The Jewish COMMUNITY Center

“There wasn’t much going on in town when I got married in the 1950s,” Dorit Paul said. So in that regard, joining the then-Kirshbaum Center (at the time located at 23rd and Meridian) for the social activities was a no-brainer, especially because her in-laws were already members. Then when the JCC moved to its current location on Hoover Road a few years later, though the family were already members of Broadmoor Country Club, they used the JCC pool because they liked it better for their kids.

Over time, the Pauls began to venture into other areas of the JCC – while Dorit continued to use the pool to practice for her SCUBA training, she and her husband Gerald (of blessed memory) also began to exercise in the Mordoh Fitness Center and attend Arts & Education programs, and one of their daughters was even a CampJCC counselor one summer. These days, Dorit still comes to the JCC once a week for Pilates Reformer, even though she’s already in her 90s.

“It Can Happen Here”

Dorit and her family moved to the U.S. as refugees from Europe when she was a child, so her involvement in the Indianapolis Jewish community and views of the current climate are intensely personal. “I’m very much aware of what’s going on in this country. It can happen here; it’s very, very worrisome,” she said. For Dorit, supporting local Jewish organizations and keeping the community vibrant is a way to help combat rising antisemitism.

Dorit’s menorahs: Brass ones she used growing up (mid-20th century German), a marble menorah from Israel (1970s), her father’s 19th century German menorah, and a glass menorah from Venice (1970s)

“We Decorated Up the House”

Though these days her Chanukah celebrations are more subdued, when her daughters were young, “we decorated up the house,” Dorit said. “I had blue streamers and garlands, things hanging from the ceiling.” She still uses the same menorah all this years later, one she’d had growing up. “It’s one of those conventional brass ones. That’s the one I actually use, though I have some other fancier ones that I bought in Israel and in Venice.” Dorit even had a portable menorah that the family brought on holiday trips and lit in their hotel room.

The one point of contention in the Pauls’ Chanukah observance was the number of presents given. “When I grew up in Germany, you got one present. It. Period. And we were thankful for that,” Dorit said. “Then I came here – you got a present every night?! Well, that was appalling. I luckily only had two children. Then they said, ‘Oh, well, you know, when the candles escalate, the presents should escalate.’ I said, ‘In your dreams.’ So for a while, we did have presents every night, though sometimes it was just Chanukah gelt.”

Chag Chanukah Sameach (Happy Chanukah)!

Chanukah (sometimes spelled Hanukkah) is the “Festival of Lights,” commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a successful revolt against the Greeks. As part of the rededication, the victorious Jews needed to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabrum), but they had only enough oil to last one day, and it would take eight days to prepare more oil. Miraculously, the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. The miracle of the oil is commemorated with this eight-day candle-lighting holiday.

Chanukah begins between Thanksgiving and Christmas. About half of the time, it overlaps with Christmas, but there are many years when Chanukah ends long before Christmas.

Almost all Jews light candles with their families for at least some nights of the holiday, so people like to be at home during this holiday.

The most important thing to remember about Chanukah is that it is not Jewish Christmas. Chanukah is a very minor holiday. It’s about lighting candles and playing games for chocolate coins (gelt) and eating potato pancakes. Chanukah gift-giving rarely extends much beyond one’s own children.

Words to Know:

Menorah: Eight-branch candleholder; each night of Chanukah we light an additional candle until the final night, when all eight candles are lit.

Dreidel: Spinning top with four Hebrew letters (nun, gimmel, hey, shin) which stand for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham” (“A Great Miracle Happened There”).

Latkes: Potato pancakes, a traditional Chanukah food.

Learn more about this and other Jewish holidays at