Who can tell of the feats of Israel
Who can count them?
— From the popular Hanukkah song, "Who Can Retell?"
When it comes to retelling of the feats of Israel — especially Hanukkah — The Gazette didn't do a very good job of counting them this year.
This fact came to me, courtesy of loyal Gazette reader Barbara Grossman, who gave me a call last Wednesday.
We wished readers Merry Christmas and Happy Easter and Happy Independence Day. We mark Veterans Day. And as sure as there is tryptophan in turkey, she was certain we were planning to wish readers a Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday.
Guilty as charged.
But where, she wondered, was our mention of Hanukkah, which fell unseasonably early this year, and coincides with Thanksgiving?
In other words, who counted the Jewish holiday in The Gazette?
I could point to several small articles in the past month that make mention of Hanukkah's timing. One of the articles, from the East Coast, talked about communities merging Thanksgiving and Hanukkah into one celebration, turkey meet potato latkes.
All in all, not necessarily a feast of news about the holiday.
Sure, I could have argued with Grossman, who was nothing if not unfailingly polite. I could have tried to argue that the newspaper is a secular institution, not religious — but then why wish any group a happy Easter? And what about our Saturday religion section?
Grossman beat me to the punch when she said, "There are about 60 families here, small numbers, but still important."
I sat on the phone, listening and agreeing. Several times, I said, "I agree with you completely — we probably should have paid better tribute to this important date."
And that's the key, really. Newspapers, when they're at their best, are a reflection of what's important to the readers. While we have a lot of readers with diverse interests, we try to be all things to all our readers and audience, as idealistic as that sounds. In this instance, we didn't acknowledge a really important holiday to a segment of readers.
The fix for the oversight, though, wasn't quite as easy. We can't reprint yesterday's paper. Running a day late announcement about Hanukkah would have looked even more ridiculous than no mention at all — even though the holiday spans eight days.
I wanted to reassure Grossman that the snub was anything but intentional. Heck, I've had varying success remembering my own wedding anniversary.
And unlike the belated birthday cards, there are really no belated Hanukkah cards that I could find.
Grossman and I did settle on a suitable solution, though. She's getting out her 2014 calendar and marking it up. One month before Hanukkah she'll be calling me, reminding me.
I made sure she had my direct line and offered her my cellphone number, too.
I expect that call to come in around Nov. 16, 2014. Barbara, I'll be looking forward to your call.
Oh yeah, and if I didn't say it on the phone: I hope you and all other Jewish Montanans had a happy Hanukkah.