How Wizards Do Money: Anthony Goldstein

When the owl arrived, bearing an envelope on Daily Prophet stationery, Anthony Goldstein already knew what was inside. He got the same letter every year, every time one of the Prophet reporters remembered to check a Muggle calendar and figure out when Hanukkah was. This year, they didn’t even send the note until the third night, which was why the owl stayed at Anthony’s windowsill, quietly preening and watching him as it waited for his response.

Anthony grabbed the letter. The same overexcitable tone, coming from — naturally — the youngest or most inexperienced reporter on staff, a new name every year, nobody looking back at the archives to see all of the Official Jewish Wizard Soundbites that Anthony had already given the paper of record, the presumptuous and assumptive Thanks! at the end of the note, as if he had already rendered the services required.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” he told the owl, who startled and then went back to smoothing her feathers.

Chanukah is a very special time for me and my family, Anthony scribbled on the back of the Daily Prophet’s letter, knowing that he had better call his mother before the paper ran the piece, which would probably be tomorrow morning. Maybe he should just apparate over. He had been hoping that he could have the night in, to read, but he could still do that after he apparated back. They’d have dinner, light a few candles.

Wait. What was the Daily Prophet asking about this year? Over the past several years Anthony had sound-bitten everything from latke recipes to dreidel game instructions. We’d love to hear from a real Jewish wizard!… Diversity is very important to our audience!!!… ah, there it was, budgeting for all eight nights of Hanukkah.

As you know, this is the most important holiday in the Jewish faith, Anthony wrote, and then mumbled “retracticus!” and the words lifted themselves from the page. He could just get away with trolling the Daily Prophet — they never bothered to fact-check, as he learned when he told them that the dreidel game included nun, gimel, hei, and bumz — but the older he got, the less fun it was to get the word “bums” into the paper he had grown up reading.

The owl softly cooed at him, a sound that wasn’t quite a hoot, as if to suggest he get on with it already. It was getting dark, and early. Fine.

Chanukah is a very special time for me and my family, and it’s one of the few times of the year when I don’t have think about how much this feeling of warmth and happiness is going to cost. Wizards often assume that there’s a direct correlation between Chanukah and Christmas, except we’ve got to come up with the equivalent of eight Christmases, or at least two small Christmases on the first and last days. That must cost a lot of money, right? All of those presents, all of those feast nights, one celebration after another?

The truth is that I’ve spent more money on Christmas this year than I have on Chanukah, and that’s fine. Christmas is the holiday that’s about extravagance and making merry. Chanukah is a celebration, to be sure, but it’s also about taking what you have and making it last. The oil that keeps the candles alight for a week and a day; the potato latkes flavored and filled out with bits and pieces of other vegetables.

Tonight, I’m going to apparate over to my parents’ house (free) and we’re going to eat dinner (2 galleons) and light three candles (5 knuts). We’re going to celebrate each other, and the passing of another year.

I don’t even have a menorah in my own home — “retracticus!”

As time has passed I feel myself wanting to spend less and less on a minor holiday that has somehow become inflated in its proximity to Christmas — “retracticus!”

When I was eleven years old, my parents sent me a sack of gelt that they hoped would compete with the chocolate frogs the other parents bought their children — “no, no, retracticus!” That was one of Anthony’s more embarrassing stories, and it ended with him learning that always winning at games was not a way to make friends, even among other Ravenclaws.

Fine, then. The passing of another year was a cliché, in fact the whole thing was a cliché, there was no way to write a simplified soundbite about being Jewish in a paper that catered to a Christian audience that wasn’t a cliché, but it would do as an ending. He started to fold up the letter and return it to the owl, and then he decided to write one more paragraph.

Thank you for contacting me every year to contribute my thoughts on Chanukah. Next year, it might be best to find another wizard to interview. It’s time to hear from a few new voices, don’t you think? Maybe someone in the post-war generation.

After all, I can’t possibly be the only Jewish wizard you know — “retracticus!”

Thanks! Anthony Goldstein

Previously: Minerva McGonagall

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