A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random global adventures,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

a jew (or two) in Peru

(subject headings: jewishness)

as jews we often blow our wad too early.  and by that i mean that due to the jewish calendar an 8-day holiday (EIGHT DAYS!) often comes and goes long before christmas eve and christmas are actually celebrated, making the holiday season a bit of a let-down.  so maybe i waited to post this hanukkah story for dramatic timing ... or maybe it's late due to laziness.  you decide!

although i have often heard that there is a jewish community here in lima, i have not seen much evidence of it.  or any.  so it was with great trepidation that i began my quest for a menorah.  now, in new york you can pretty much buy a menorah anywhere: supermarket, chain-store pharmacy, judaica shop, etc.  but here i have seen no sign of them.

after a quick google search i found a very short list of synagogues in town, the first one located in my neighborhood.  i am now the proud owner of an iPhone, so i tried to find it using the maps app which they recently upgraded and turned completely useless.  after much fruitless searching and walking in circles, i realized i could use my phone to call the synagogue and just ask them where they are located.  ah, technology!

the conversation went something like this:
me: estoy buscando para una menora.  ¿vende menoras?
la señora: no, no vendemos menoras aqui.
me: ¿en serio?   donde puedo comprarla?  
(note that i am now using direct objects in spanish.  say what?!)
la señora: nadie vende menoras en lima.  necesita comprarla afueras.
me: ¿en serio?  donde compraste sus menoras?
la señora: afueras de Lima.

seriously? i could not accept that all menorahs in Lima, even those for use in a temple, were being brought in from outside of the city.  so i used my high tech phone to call the second (and penultimate) synagogue on my list.  i was then informed that they did in fact sell menorahs, and i was asked what kind of menorah i wanted!  now, at the time i didn't have much cash on me and not wanting to invest a huge amount of money, i told her i wanted a very simple, basic, cheap menorah.  (this information comes back later.  in the biz we call this foreshadowing)

this synagogue happened to be located in a different neighborhood so i had to take a cab there, dwindling my already low supply of cash.  (have i ever mentioned the ridiculousness of getting effectivo here?  next blog post!)

so i arrived in the approximate vicinity, and it really didn't look like there is a synagogue anywhere around.  however, when i looked across the street i saw not one but TWO oversized menorahs!  (did they get them here in Lima?)  proof that there were jews nearby!

i searched for the address and all i saw was the shady industrial door shown here.  next to the door was a large bullet-proof glass window with a metal security drawer and a small call-box.  i was about to skulk away in fear and then i noticed that there was a very utilitarian looking mezuzah affixed to the door.  another clue!

i push the little call button and have a lovely little awkward conversation:
me: ¿hola?
security guard:  ¿quien es?
me: soy señorita dewey decimal.  quiero comprar una menora.

they buzzed me into a second very industrial looking room with a second bullet proof glass window and a second metal security drawer.  but lo and behold inside the metal drawer is a yamulke!  then they buzzed me through a second door and i walk into a charming little courtyard.  who would've thought?

then a nice orthodox man approached me and told me that the shop woman would be here momentarily. while i was waiting he seemed very excited to ask me loads of questions: where do i work?  why am i here in peru?  what part of new york am i from?  am i married?  do i have children?  really, am i sure i don't have children?  and i'm married?  but without children?

he had that look in his eyes that told me that cute young jewish women don't stumble in here uninvited all that often.  i knew i had to be very cautious not to give up too much information.  thankfully the shop woman arrived before i became a reluctant congregation member (i am reform! i belong to no congregation!)

so i buy my menorah and luckily i remembered to also ask for candles.  she then handed me this box of velas de januca with a large Radioshack logo. strange. but whatevs. but when she rang me up i realized that i had exactly enough effectivo to pay for both candles and menorah.

but how would i get my taxi home?
as i was haggling with the tax driver i was nervous that i wouldn't have enough coins to get me home.  as i was adding up my change i thought it would only add to 1 sol ... but then, as i was adding it up, i had 8 soles!  enough for my taxi ride!  it was a hanukkah miracle!

¡feliz januca a todos!


  1. How could I have missed these blog postings?
    Thank our lord, blessed Almighty who looks over us Jewish existentialists....I found you!

  2. Can you please give me the address, I want to buy a mezuzah because the one I have is almost broken.
    Thanks in advance for your help.