LANCASTER — Although Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday, is four months away, the Jewish community of the Antelope Valley got a head start this year.

A display exhibit conceived and built by Lancaster resident Susanne Snyder for exclusive submission to the 81st annual AV Fair and Alfalfa Festival was acknowledged with three awards — Best of Show, Best in Division and First Place.

“I was totally shocked,” Susanne Snyder said. “I went on the first night of the Fair and lo and behold, there were three ribbons.”

In addition to the bright ribbons affixed to the display — which can be viewed at the Arts and Crafts building at the Fair — Snyder received a gift card.

While the Fair’s recognition carried personal joy for the Snyders, the occasion doubled as a historic milestone for the Fair, too.

“This is the very first time that a Jewish collection has been recognized” in the Fair’s 81-year history, Susanne Snyder said.

The Snyders are members of Congregation Beth Knesset Bamidbar, which “immediately posted the news” that Susanne’s entry was awarded by the AV Fair, Susanne’s husband D.C. Snyder said.

For the Snyders, the timing of the recognition was notable, because they’ve felt the U.S. has been embroiled in “divisiveness and hate.” Susanne Snyder’s thought process in creating the exhibit was to make it “educational” and for the entire display to generate additional “awareness to anti-Semitic hate.”

Further, the goal was simply to help “diffuse anti-Semitic” prejudices that may be harbored in the AV and beyond.

Snyder’s family was ecstatic and humbled to be honored by the Fair’s judges, although Snyder’s daughters had some initial reservations about how the display — which features a menorah from the 1860s — would be perceived.

“My sister and I were really nervous about whether this would be well-received because of anti-Semitism,” Courtney Snyder said. “I feel very proud of her, that she stuck it out.”

Snyder herself said she is fully aware that “we live in an area that’s pretty much a ‘Bible belt,’  and to be recognized in a prominent and mainstream event like the AV Fair — to which she and her family have gone for more than two decades — was indeed very special.

It wasn’t Susanne’s first display entry, however, as she submitted a display on Noah’s Ark tale “about 15 years ago.”

“I didn’t do it as a Jewish thing,” she said.

Her entry this year is unmistakably the opposite.

“I said I’ll step it up and do this,” Snyder said.

Susanne had help and support during her project, which took several months to assemble. Her husband of 38 years, D.C. Snyder, a real estate agent, said some of the pieces included in the display were items the pair collected on trips to France and other regions with Jewish diaspora.

The menorah from the mid-1800s is a family heirloom, D.C. Snyder said. It belonged to Susanne’s great-grandparents, who lived in what is now the Russian Federation and migrated during the anti-Semitic purges known as pogroms.

“I am very happy and satisfied that the powers that be from the AV Fair realized that this Jewish Hanukkah Collection was something very special and needed to be recognized to all of the participants and visitors from the Greater Antelope Valley region,” D.C. Snyder wrote in an email. “Mazel Tov!”  

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