Hanukkah celebrates the miracle that oil thought to be enough for only one day burned instead for eight. So the Jewish festival of lights is also, in a way, a celebration of surprise.
A temple in Queens got a small dose of surprise on Sunday — the final night of Hanukkah — when Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat with a knack for dramatic flourish, told those gathered to light the menorah that her ancestors were Jewish.
“One of the things that we discovered about ourselves is that a very, very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardic Jews,” Ocasio-Cortez said. These are Jews who settled in the Middle East, North Africa and southern Europe after the Jewish diaspora. They were expelled from Spain in 1492.
The announcement drew delight at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center. Someone in the audience at the event, organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, made a remark, which can’t be heard in a video of the congresswoman-elect’s brief speech, but which seemed to embrace her as a fellow Jew. She replied, “He’s like, ‘I told you! I knew it! I sensed it!’”