Tracy, Director, Field HR – East, has spent 10 years with PetSmart and shares her story surrounding one of her favorite holidays—Hanukkah!
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, please visit our new Belonging Fetch Page.
It’s the holiday season! For me, the holiday season has never involved Santa, Christmas trees, or elves. It includes menorah, dreidels, and gelt! Hanukkah traditions are something I’ve always enjoyed. In my family growing up, we’d typically get one “bigger” present on the first night, and during the other seven crazy nights, we’d get “stocking stuffer” type presents. I loved saying the Hebrew prayer whilst lighting the candles at sundown. To this day, I will ONLY use matches, not a lighter, to light the Menorah… as the smell of matches has always made me think of Hanukkah.
I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Buffalo Grove, IL, to be exact. During my childhood years, this area was very heavily populated with Jewish families. Going to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs every weekend (sometimes 2-3) throughout junior high was the norm. It was great to be part of this community, and then everything changed.
In my freshman year of high school, my dad’s job was transferred from Melrose Park, IL to Salt Lake City, UT (he’s a 30+ year grocery veteran). The move across the country would be a significant change for any 14-year old, but I never expected my Jewish heritage to be one of the factors that made the change so enormous for me. I was literally the only kid in my new school that was Jewish, and it was a big school! Many of the kids (and parents and teachers) were very inquisitive about what it was like to grow up Jewish. I distinctly recall a time in the lunchroom where another student said to me, “oh, you’re Jewish; I met a Jewish person once.” It was so odd being in the extreme minority for the first time in my life. While I felt generally accepted, I felt different, very different, from everyone else.
We all have our own experiences in life that help shape our views on diversity, inclusion, and belonging. For me, this experience was pivotal.
One of my favorite things about PetSmart is how I feel I can bring my whole self to work. I feel fortunate to work with people that accept and embrace differences every day.
I continue to enjoy getting to teach my inquisitive non-Jewish friends and co-workers all about Hanukkah traditions. I can’t wait for sundown on December 10th to get lit! (the candles, of course 😊).