Chanukah in the Rainforest | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Chanukah in the Rainforest

Cacao pods and beans. (Debbie Prinz)

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Not only was there no Chanukkah gelt, but my husband and I forgot to pack our Chanukah candles and menorah for our rainforest adventure in Belize.

The Mayan staff at our hotel in Punto Gardo kindly rustled up a red votive candle for the festival’s first night. We decided that the fried plantains could replace latkes.

Celebrating Chanukah's value of religious freedom felt especially meaningful when set against the history of proselytization of the local Kekchi and Mopan Maya people by the Europeans. Even the smallest villages host several churches and parochial schools. Billboard size signs listing the Ten Commandments plaster store walls with their promises of salvation. Apocalyptic aphorisms line rock-strewn roads. We traveled alongside an Italian Catholic missionary and a young woman from Baltimore planning to teach Bible.

So this year we celebrate Chanukah’s ancient message of the rights of the minority and our cherished heritage with a local Kekchi-made chocolate cake.

Maria Cal’s Chocolate Cake

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Judaism around the world based on stories from her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (second edition, Jewish Lights) . She co-curated the exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City, now available to travel to your community.

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