“A mentsh zol leben shoin nor fun neigerikeit vegen. (A man should stay alive if only out of curiosity.)” – Yiddish saying
Shalom! My name is Mrs. Federlin and I am the unofficial rabbi in the colony. Mrs. K and Miss E asked me to tell the truly miraculous tale of my family’s last Chanukah celebration. I would not have believed it, had I not lived it firsthand.
In 2023 my husband, my 4 ½ year-old daughter, Lydia, and I lived with a small group of members from our former temple in Morris County, NJ. Our numbers had dwindled from 40-something to a half dozen in the four years, due as often to starvation as zombie attacks. My family, plus Mr. Wright and Mrs. Landau (both widowed) and the orphan 11-year-old Amanda Rose were all that was left of our temple.
Our band had moved south on foot, seeking distance from the overrun Northeast cities. At that time, we were living in a small barn northeast of where we are now, somewhere in Virginia.
It was the first day of Chanukah and we were all in a celebratory mood, probably for the first time since the great panic. In our excitement, I’m afraid we failed to be vigilant. I had forgotten my bubbe’s sage wisdom: “better caution at first than tears afterwards.”
Around sundown we began to celebrate the festival of lights in the makeshift manner in which we had grown accustomed. We ate latkes fashioned out of canned turnips, breaded in sawdust and fried in oil. Little Amanda Rose had made a sauce out of a can of cocktail fruit mix she had been saving for the occasion.
We had fashioned a menorah using available materials (you’d be amazed what Mr. Federlin can do with a few plumbing pipes and a hammer!). I was especially pleased that night because I had some gelt (chocolate coins to you goys) in my apron pocket that I found in a pharmacy raid a few weeks back. I was planning to surprise the children with them as a small gift.
As little Lydia lit the first candle we said our first day of Chanukah prayers:
ברוך אתה, אדונים, אלוהינו, ריבונו של העולם שהחיה וקיים והגיענו לזמן בעונה זו. ברצינות אלוהים, מה עם הזומבים האלה? אמן.
Translation: Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. But seriously God, what is up with these zombies? Amen.
We began to sing “Ma’oz Tzur.” Our small band of voices must have been louder than we thought. We didn’t realize our barn was surrounded by the undead until the end of the last verse. By then of course it was too late.
Everyone but little Lydia panicked. We could tell from the chorus of moans that there were dozens, possibly hundreds of zombies surrounding all sides of the barn. With six people, two of them children, we did not even have a minyan*, let alone the manpower to make a proper stand.
I tried to consider my options. If we tried to escape by the front door we’d be surrounded. The only other door was on the backside of the barn in the hayloft. But I knew that if we tried to jump out of it, we would be eaten in seconds. I was certain we were really going to die.
I wish I could say I used (what I believed were) my last moments on earth piously by saying a prayer to God. I wish I had told my daughter and husband how much I loved them, or thanked my fellow survivors. I didn’t. Instead, I ripped open one after another of the chocolate coins I had saved for the children and noshed. They were delicious.
As I mentioned before, the only one of us who was calm was my four-year old daughter Lydia. While the rest of us panicked, she quietly grasped the lit menorah and climbed up into the hay loft.
Once in the hayloft, Lydia loudly sang a rousing “Driedel dreidel dreidal! I made it out of clay…” I later realized that it was to get the zombies’ undivided attention. Once they were all on her side of the barn, away from the front door, she used the menorah to light small clumps of hay. She threw the handfuls or burning hay into the tightly packed crowd.
One by one the undead caught on fire. Until that moment, we had no idea that fire could kill the z-heads as effectively as a head injury. Once all of the zombies were ablaze, Lydia quickly jumped down the hayloft and motioned to Mr. Wright to open the barn door so we could make a run for it.
The ghouls were so encumbered by the fire that we were able to all safely get away that night. About an hour later, when we were sure we weren’t being followed, we saw the bright lights of the fire still going. It was truly a Chanukah miracle! Lydia had the foresight to bring the menorah so we were able to light the candles for the next seven days.
Several weeks later, we met Mr. K and the rest of the colony, but that is another story.
Happy Chanukah and L’Chaim!
*A Minyan is a quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations.
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