Hanukkah at CBJ
Congregation Beth Jacob has been gifted with a wonderful Chanukah display. This is no ordinary shadowbox exhibit! It is a depiction of the Chanukah story: the Macabees fighting the Greeks at the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. This display is nearly eight feet tall and eight feet wide! It is constructed of wood and is hand-painted. The colorful fighting characters are each nearly twelve inches tall. Electric lights trim the tall scalloped Temple walls and an ornate painted and carved wood Chanukiah (menorah) is set in the middle against Temple background.
Alan Livingston, long-time friend of Rabbi Doctor’s family, and his brother David, have gifted this unique exhibit to the shul. The brothers were looking for a home for this distinctive display that has been in their family for well over 60 years.
This large Chanukah diorama began its life in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1951. When Alan and his brother, David, were little boys, they lamented that during the holiday season everyone else in the neighborhood, including Jewish families, had a Christmas tree. Of course, they wanted one, too. Their father said, “…there would be no Christmas tree in their house!” However, to appease the boys he loved, and to encourage their pride in their own holiday story, he had the large Temple display built. Thus a happy and proud tradition began in the Livingston home.
Every year, the Livingston family hosted the family Chanukah celebration at their home. The children would set up the display in front of the fireplace. Gifts were placed in front of the display, and every night of Chanukah, the children “lit” the menorah candles by twisting on another light bulb. This tradition continued until Alan and David went off to college.
The display was placed into storage from 1968 until the late 1970’s, when David had it shipped from Tulsa to California. David had a young family, and the tradition continued in his home for nearly 20 years. When his two sons left home, the diorama was, once more, placed into storage.
In recent years, the Livingston brothers have been looking for a good home for this special family icon, and realized the shul would be the perfect place. It was shipped from California, and arrived at the shul the second week of December, 2014.
We thank Alan and David Livingston for their generous gift to Beth Jacob. We thank their father, of blessed memory, for his love and insight. He could have said, “No Christmas tree in this house. End of story.” Instead, he created a tangible tradition. He understood the importance of caring for his children, as well as his religion. And that is a tradition we can carry with us all year long.
The diorama will become the centerpiece of Beth Jacob’s Chanukah Celebrations for many years to come.