Sukkoth Memory

by Loolwa Khazzoom • September 28, 2013 • Jewish Multicultural Corner

Maghen Daweed Congregation, San Francisco, 1978

My family brought the kis elyahu hanabee – the Chair of Elijah the Prophet – to the synagogue Sukkah, so that all the congregants could enjoy it, as per the Middle Eastern Jewish custom. (Ashkenazim get Eliyahu on Pesah, Mizrahim and Sephardim get him on Sukkoth. It’s only fair.) Our chair was a replica of the one my grandparents had in Iraq, being that all their possessions were confiscated by the Iraqi government back in 1950. It was an ornamental, small, low, rectangular chair, made of blonde wood. There were four wood cylindrical poles at each corner of the chair, upon which silver rimonim (ornamental tassles, like those on the Sephardi/Mizrahi Torah) were adorned. It was beautiful. It usually had some kind of pretty material and books on the seat.

As everyone was getting ready to leave after the festivities, I walked through the rabbi’s second-floor study and, looking out the window, saw the chair sitting out in the Sukkah. I went back downstairs and into the backyard, to bring the chair inside while we were gone, in the interest of ensuring nothing would happen to it. That was just the kind of kid I was – always observing, looking out for, and taking care of people and things.

That evening, congregants returned to the synagogue, only to discover it has been attacked – specifically, the Sukkah had been vandalized and completely trashed. Everything was either stolen or broken, and it was a humungous mess. Our hearts were crushed by the racist assault. And yet, I was deliriously happy that I had saved the chair. So was my father, who officially gave it to me that day. “I’m not waiting for you to inherit,” he said. “You saved it. It would not be here if not for your forethought. It is yours right now.”

This year, as in years past, I enjoyed celebrating the holiday with my little kis elyahu hanabee by my side. Not only do I feel the presence of Eliyahu, but I also feel the presence of my younger self, and I feel very proud.

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Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

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