Join Us for Chanukah

By Edith Quintana

When a prominent klezmer group from León takes the stage for a Chanukah concert on December 13, it will mark another milestone for the Jewish community in San Miguel: Shalom San Miguel will complete three years in the JC3 (Jewish Cultural and Community Center).

Chanukah
Sun, Dec 13, 3pm
Shalom San Miguel
Jewish Cultural and Community Center
Las Moras 45
Col Allende
For the concert, 100 pesos members/
120 non-members

A Jewish community? Deep in the Mexican heartland, a colonial city, still largely Catholic after almost 500 years? A miracle, like the fabled burning of the oil for the eight days of Chanukah.

A Jewish presence in San Miguel is not new. A landmark building in El Centro, Casa Cohen, with its Noah’s ark figures and Star of David, was built in the 1930s by a family with Syrian Jewish roots. Some 30 years ago, a handful of San Miguel Jews began meeting on Saturdays in each other’s homes to study the Torah. Eventually, Miranda Nadel became the group’s leader and led a popular Saturday morning Torah study for more than 20 years. Sanmiguelenses and snowbirds overflowed the rooms, and eventually the group moved to the Quinta Loreto TV Salon, welcomed by the Quinta’s owners.

More recently, Dan Lessner, a retired physician from Long Island, arrived with a Sefer Torah—a special Torah scroll inscribed by hand on parchment. His love of traditional chants and Hebrew prayers added another dimension as Dan began leading a traditional/egalitarian service on Shabbat mornings, followed by Torah study.

After Miranda retired some 10 years ago, more growth prompted Dan and President Carole Stone, a retired teacher and cantorial soloist from Pittsburgh, to search for a permanent home for the community. Providentially, Feed the Hungry outgrew their storage facility at Las Moras 45 and offered the property to the Jewish community. Now the spacious, high-ceilinged storeroom is a sanctuary.

A visitor on a Saturday morning would suspect still another miracle. Two stacks of spiral bound prayer books are stacked at the entrance. Both contain the service in Hebrew; the blue covers with English translation and transliterations; the red, identical but in Spanish. The worshippers too are a rainbow, faces in all shades of brown and white, and in a range of ages from babes in arms to white haired pensioners using their canes. A young Mexican girl welcomes newcomers with a beaming smile. Her older brother reads a portion of the service aloud in Spanish. A retired physician whose family is Moroccan chants in the Sephardic tradition of his homeland. The community, formerly of older, retired Norte-Americanos, is now punctuated by the vibrancy of youth.

CHESMA welcomes visitors and inquiries on its website, www.shalomsanmiguel.org, by email at shalomsanmiguel@yahoo.com.mx, by phone at 185 9191, and in person at the JC3 during office hours from 9am to 5pm weekdays.

Join us for our Chanukah bash on December 13, the last night of Chanukah. Klezmer concert at 3pm with a party immediately following at 5pm. Admission to the concert will be 100 pesos for members, 120 pesos for non-members. Space is limited. Guests are asked to bring their menorah and candles, along with canned or dry goods to donate to SOME (So Others May Eat). Latkes will be served!

 

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