For Ages
12 to 99

Two teens with two very different ideas of how to spend Hanukkah learn to work together to save the last Jewish remnant in small town Texas in this cozy holiday romance!

New Yorker Hannah Levin is allergic to exactly two things, horses and tinsel. Unfortunately, she’s surrounded by both when she’s snowed in at her grandmother’s home in a small Texas town.

Super lonely, missing latkes and reliable Wi-Fi, Hannah wanders into an old deli where she meets the only other Jewish teen around, Noah, who happens to be equal parts adorable and full of annoying, over the top festival of lights spirit that he’s determined to share with Hannah one itchy Hanukkah sweater at a time.

As the days pass—and a spectacularly memorable kiss following Noah’s made up game of truth or dare dreidel takes place—Hannah begins to wonder if maybe there’s more to Hanukkah than she thought. . .

An Excerpt fromEight Dates and Nights


The Christmas season may be magical and delightful to some, but you could never tell from my gate at LaGuardia Airport. Clearly, the toddler screaming her head off next to me agrees. Zero delight there.

Her mom hands her a big red paper cup with a straw—­some kind of kiddie hot chocolate—­before digging through her ginormous diaper bag while also juggling a baby. Nearby, a random guy in a Santa suit who looks like he has had one too many lets out a couple of ho, ho, ho’s, followed by a loud belch.

That’s when my years of babysitting and being a camp counselor kick into high gear. I’m not overly fond of most adults, but I love kids. I always have. I’m pretty sure I even want to be an elementary school teacher in the future. However, I love kids much more when they aren’t crying at a high pitch directly next to my ear.

“Do you need some help?” I ask the mom, holding out my hand for the toddler. Under normal circumstances, the mom probably wouldn’t take help from a stranger, but at this point the toddler is wailing and the drunk Santa is kind of wobbling toward her. He’s hopefully friendly, not creepy, but baby girl isn’t having it. At all. And neither am I, to be honest.

In contrast, at five two with my curly brown hair, baby face, leggings, and fuzzy UGG boots, I hardly look dangerous or overwhelming to the pre–­elementary school demographic, or their parents.

“Yes, please! Whatever you can do! Emma, honey,” she says over the sobbing, “this nice girl wants to say hello.”

I crouch down next to her. “Hi, Emma! I’m Hannah. Do you like dogs or cats?” I ask.

The distraction works, and she stops crying at once.

“Kitty?” she asks, grabbing my hand. Her fine blond pigtails are askew, and her face is as red as her cup.

Her mom flashes me a grateful smile as I sit down in a chair and pull the girl into my lap and pull out my phone to scroll through some cat videos. A couple of seconds of watching cats dressed in Halloween costumes and she’s calm but hiccupping now that she’s no longer crying. The baby in the mom’s arm has fallen asleep as well. Even Way-­Too-­Jolly St. Nick seems to be sitting down, which is probably a good idea.

I smile briefly. As I do, I realize it’s the first real grin to take up residence on my face since finding out I have to go to Texas. Not Austin, or Houston, or anywhere remotely cool. Nope. I have to go to the middle-­of-­nowhere East Texas. Population 2,000. Plus me. That makes it 2,001 for the four miserable days I will be there. That would be bad enough, except it’s during Hanukkah and I’m being shipped off to see my grandmother. Alone. Not my choice, but my parents don’t exactly get along with Nana, so I have to take one for the team, and in this case, it’s my family, aka Team Levin.

Last year my brother went. Now it’s my turn because my brother is in college and he used some sort of flimsy excuse to get out of it like an internship or studying for the LSAT or whatever. Either way, it worked for him and landed me at the overcrowded gate of the overcrowded airport waiting for a flight that’s already been delayed twice and will most likely also be over capacity.

But, for the moment, I push the feeling of dread aside. I’m the child whisperer extraordinaire. Other passengers waiting for the plane are coming over to congratulate me. They don’t like crying babies either. The mom is handing me a Starbucks gift card to thank me. Her tired eyes are grateful for the one moment of peace I’ve managed to give her. As my mom likes to say, “Mitzvah goreret mitzvah,” or “one commandment or good deed brings around another.” It’s kind of a Jewish idea of karma, do one good deed and then someone else will do a good deed, and so on. In this case, in the form of a Starbucks card, which I pocket for later.

The cloying Christmas music is swelling in the airport around me as tinsel on a fake tree waves in the breeze of the air-­conditioning. Despite the noise and crowds, it’s actually pretty, for a moment.

Maybe it’s a sign that things won’t be that bad in Texas. Maybe I’ll charm my grandmother and my allergies won’t even kick in around the horses. Maybe she’ll tell me embarrassing stories I can use to taunt my dad for years to come. The doubts creep in, but I choose to ignore them. Until the little girl turns toward me, her eyes widening, her face reddening as her mouth opens wide and she wiggles off my lap and starts to go toward her mom, who is looking in the opposite direction. I think Emma’s going to start howling again, so I lean over, but as I do, she toddles back toward me like a less stable Frankenstein’s monster. I reach out to steady her, but it’s too late. The lid goes flying off her drink, which ends up spilling all over me like a thick shampoo.

Remnants of some sort of kiddie hote cocoa with whipped cream, and peppermint topping are now covering my shirt like glittery, warm slime. I let out a shriek as the liquid drips down my front, right into my bra.

I must have startled drunk Santa behind me because he stands up too quickly and trips over someone’s luggage. I try to duck, but Emma’s in the way and before I know it, yup. Worst-­case scenario. I’m on the sticky floor of the airport. On my butt. On what looks like a puddle of beer.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” someone says under their breath, chuckling.

Crap. It sure is.

Just like in one of those fast-­forward time-­lapse videos, everything starts moving really quickly. The mom is absolutely horrified and grabs Emma, who cries again because she wants to stay with me. Other passengers scurry away after handing the mom and me bottles of water, napkins, wet wipes, and everything else they could possibly think of, other than my dignity. That’s long, long gone.

The damage is done. Of course, of course, my luggage is checked because it was too big to fit overhead. I only have my backpack and don’t have any clothes in it. I could run and buy a new shirt from the newsstand or a gift shop, but that’s when they start calling passengers. From here, I can see the line at the store is long as people scramble to buy magazines, gum, and snacks. Too long. I’ll never make it there and back in time, and the last thing I want to do is wait for another flight.

As if to take pity on me, a grandmotherly woman digs into her own carry-­on and pulls out a red-­and-­green sweater and hands it over. “Please, take this. I have another one packed. It will be my Christmas gift to you.”

Her eyes twinkle over her small Mrs. Claus–­like glasses, and I thank her multiple times. That is, until I unfold it and see the monstrosity in front of me. It’s an itchy-­looking bright green top with plastic bulbs hanging from a moose’s antlers. It’s 3D. It’s practically flammable. And there’s no way I’m wearing it. Except for the fact that it’s this or my stained shirt for the three-­hour-­plus flight.

But I don’t manage to get any of this across. All I can squeak out is “Thank you! But I’m Jewish!”

“Oh, that’s okay, sweetie.” That’s when she points out what I missed at the very bottom of the sweater. It’s a teeny-­tiny menorah. Only it has five candles, so not a menorah at all. It’s a candleholder held by a reindeer, or it’s another reindeer’s antlers behind the moose. Moreover, I doubt the reindeer is even Jewish. The person who designed it definitely is not. I don’t know if it’s an oversight or a harbinger of things to come. All I know is that it’s going to be a long, humiliating flight.

I go to thank her again, because I’m polite, and also because with my luck, this is all one big prank that’s being recorded and I don’t want to look like a brat on YouTube and ruin my chances of getting into a good college and finding a job in the future.

So I run to the bathroom and wipe off my bra under my shirt with paper towels, changing into the sweater without even getting to the stall first, because, yeah, the line is long there, too, and it’s so quick it’s not like anyone even notices.

Once I leave the bathroom, I take a Snap with a frown and send it to my best friends, Abby and Becky, with a crying emoji, which they respond to right away.

LOL, you’re never going to meet a cute cowboy in that, Abby writes, not surprising due to her recent fascination with her mom’s romance novels.

Then from Becky: Forget cowboys. Text us the minute you hear about any college. Books before bros . . . I give her a thumbs-­up, send heart emojis to them both, and then shut my phone off, after refreshing my inbox one more time. Nope, no word from any of the schools I applied to, not that I expected to hear so soon.

When I get back to the gate, I look for the woman to thank her again when I hear my name being called over the loudspeaker. “Passenger Hannah Levin, please come to the check-­in desk. Paging Hannah Levin . . . Report to the check-­in area, please.”

I duck my head and walk over to the desk, cheeks burning bright red, so that they now match the decorations on the sweater and the cup that was dumped on me. The very put-­together airline employee glances at me, her eyebrow raised a bit. Considering her impeccable appearance, she has clearly never been seen in public covered in 3D reindeer and smelling like I do.

“Am I in trouble?” I croak out. Can they kick me off the flight for smelling like beer or something else? Being an unaccompanied minor? For a second I’m even hopeful I’ll be sent home.

She tilts her head. “No, sweetie. We actually have to ask you a favor. Would you mind switching seats so a family could sit together?”

This is the second time in five minutes I’ve been called sweetie even though sweet is the last thing I am feeling. I sigh but grab the boarding pass she’s offering me. It’s my second mitzvah of the day. Not bad for a completely crappy day. I’m only hoping this one doesn’t end as poorly, considering it involves switching my comfortable window seat in the front of the plane for a cramped spot in the back, right by the ­bathroom.

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