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My First Menorah

By Juan Mejia

It was 1999. I had recently come out of my Jewish closet by telling my friends that I had decided to convert.

This led to a good number of well intentioned jokes to try to disperse the oddity and to some puzzled looks of some other friends who could not imagine me as anything else than what they were: secular Catholics without any meaningful connection to religion. It was not a hard time but it was a lonely time.

A couple of weeks before Channukah, one of my best friends┤ father (a wealthy doctor with many Jewish friends) send me a gift: an old brass menorah that he had found on one of his many antique searches around the city.

That year I lit the candles for the first time basking in the warmth of knowing that I was relighting a menorah that someone had lit and love and then had remained dormant for years, maybe decades.

I also beamed with the connection the mitzvah gave me to generations of my ancestors, that like the menorah, had remained dormant for ages.

And, most of all, in those lonely times of coming out, I felt that someone understood my change. The whole experience was illuminating.