By Caroline Kessler
Last week, I wrote about Montana. This week, I want to write briefly about Arizona. For the past week, I’ve been in the Grand Canyon State, visiting a friend, hiking every surface imaginable, and letting my ears adjust to the rapid changes in altitude. As I spent the majority of Hanukkah with my non-Jewish friend, I wondered about the Jewish population of Arizona. As it’s been pointed out in various publications, our culture seems to be obsessed with Jews in places other than Israel or America—a.k.a, unlikely places.
Just as I was beginning to think that wasn’t a single kipah-covered head in this state of so many different landscapes, I was pleasantly surprised. Not by an actual person I met, mind you, but by menorah in an unexpected place. There is a large hill smack in the middle of glittering Tempe, home to Arizona State University. Along one side of the hill perches (predictably) wooden silhouettes of the three wise men atop camels.
The other side of the hill holds a path frequently treaded by runners, businessmen on their lunch break, and curious tourists. My three friends and I had decided against visiting the zoo, so getting close to these camels was the second best thing. Imagine my surprise when I look even further up the hill to see a massive metal menorah, glinting in the Arizona sun.
When I returned home several days later, I tiredly searched the Internet, looking for some bit of information about this shining masterpiece. The only information I found was a few years old, detailing a change in the menorah placed atop Tempe Butte (the large hill). 2009 marks the 12th year of the exercise to hoist the symbolic candelabra up the mountain.
My trek up Tempe Butte was a sweaty one, but well worth the effort to stand behind this tin structure. Although I didn’t see any other evidence of Judaism in the state, this piece of metal was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
Caroline Kessler, hailing from the not-so-charmed city of Baltimore, is an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University.