Letter from 1962 helps Ridgefield woman speak up on the importance of Hanukkah 

She recalls seeing all the Christmas lights, ornaments and trees, but what she remembers the most was not seeing any Hanukkah decorations. 

Nicole Alarcon Soares and Jeff Derderian

Dec 15, 2023, 10:21 PM

Updated 165 days ago

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A letter written in 1962 helped a Ridgefield woman share the importance of representation during Hanukkah.
Debbie Katchko-Gray remembers being a timid 5-year-old when she took a trip to Sak’s Fifth Avenue in New York City. 
She recalls seeing all the Christmas lights, ornaments and trees, but what she remembers the most was not seeing any Hanukkah decorations. 
Katchko-Gray’s mom said she should do something to change that. 
“I wonder if it stayed with me and gave me the Yiddish word 'chutzpah,' like don’t be afraid to speak up,” said Katchko-Gray.
So Katcho-Gray wrote the letter, put a stamp on it and sent it off to the company president of Sak’s Fifth Avenue back in 1962.
The head of Sak’s wrote back.
“It was very respectful, ‘Perhaps you missed some of the Hanukkah, and you just didn’t see it, but we will do better,” said Katchko-Gray.
She says the letter she received was packed away and sent to the Weitzman National Museum of Jewish History in Philadelphia, where the letter is still displayed today.
“I found it so amazing the museum chose that letter out of all seven boxes.”
Katchko-Gray is an inspiration for Jewish women in the community.
She became the second woman in the country to become a cantor in 1981, which is a musical director of a synagogue. 
Katchko-Gray says she hopes her story can bring young girls to question things and speak up.


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