Our Open Tent: Reflections on the Chanukah Mart

The Chanukah Mart for me is like an open tent –  a chuppah.  It has four poles and four pole holders who hold it high for all of us to come under.

The first pole holder is the overall Chair, Carole Brand.  Like the manager of a large train station, Carole has a strong arm, sets the tone, makes sure that all the trains are running on time, sees that the signage is clear and that everyone knows where to go and knows their jobs and, that no one misses the event.

The second pole holder oversees the planning, purchase, preparation and serving of all the delicious food that is served.  Libby Merrill, the Food Chair, manages the operation as befitting the CEO of a company. She starts in July with promotion scouting and the procurement of gift card donations from grocery stores to help purchase ingredients, makes endless trips to unimaginable sources, and runs a cost-to-price analysis on each item on the menu to ensure a profit, all the while maintaining top quality.

The third pole holder is the Manager of the Judaica Shop.  Meg Seldin quietly adds more menorahs, more kids’ stuff, more of whatever she deems needed.  She and the store are like Mary Poppins and her bag – she opens it and one has no idea what magical items will come out of it, nor how at the end of the day it will all fit back into its small space.

The fourth pole holder is the Vendor Chair.  Cara Jablon is TSWRJ’s other consummate scout.  Her work moves on a continuous loop throughout the year.  She is forever looking for new agents, keeping her eye on quality and craftsmanship.

But the Mart does not stop with the pole holders.  There are so many volunteers who year after year take on the planning and management of particular sections of the Mart.  Rita Brickman organized the sign-up of the more than 100 volunteers.  Catherine Ribnick and Robin Glantz ran the Bake Sale; Robin Frosh oversaw the cooking;  Jo and Len and Marla and Mark and Laura made sure the kitchen ran before, during, and after the event; Haya and Alix were at the kids table; Nick and Jon procured, provided tastings and received donations for some  wonderful Israeli wine; Ilana designed and redesigned the postcards, posters and flyers; Bonnie expanded our publicity; Gertrude (wo)maned the WRJ table; Alice continued to knit her creations; and among all these folks our Treasurer Bobbe moved around the room like the wind with bags of money under her wings making sure the wheels of the Mart were turning just right.

And after all of these heavy lifters came the rest of us.  We came when called — to serve food, to man all the stations, to shop and to dine, and to support our community.

One of my favorite moments is at the end of the day.  The vendors are for the most part gone, the shop and helper are still busy packing it all away and the temple staff is folding the tables and sweeping away the debris.  The rest of us are finishing vendor check out and munching on leftovers.  Inevitably someone asks “So how did we do today?”  We all then look around and know that we did OK.  Because at the end of the day it is not how much we did and whether we did better than last year.  It is just the fact that we were again holding the tent, inviting the whole community to come in – to do some work, support each other, and have fun in the process.

Start thinking about next year’s Mart.


-Deborah Tanno, TSWRJ Co-President