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It has become popular in the engaged core of the Jewish community to look down on Hanukkah. It is an unimportant holiday, some say. Others say that celebrating Hanukkah in a big way compromises Jewish values, worrying that it is emphasized only because of its proximity to Christmas. We beg to differ. There is nothing wrong with fun holidays like Hanukkah and Purim. In fact, they’re a great opportunity to engage those who have become bored with or alienated from Jewish life.
The “unimportant” holiday of Hanukkah has a lot going on, something for everyone: Inspiring miracles, military campaigns, a controversial revolt, the fight against assimilation, a connection to other cultures’ winter light festivals – not to mention delectable fried foods and fun parties and games. On top of that, its wide popularity (regardless of whether its popularity stems from the proximity to and association with Christmas) make it a perfect gateway holiday: Less engaged Jews and their families may already be thinking more about their Jewish background at this time of year because of Hanukkah’s high name recognition in the broader culture. Instead of sneering at Hanukkah, we should embrace it as a chance to meet less engaged Jews and help them become more involved in the Jewish community.
To that end, we have created this list of Eight Values for Building an Inclusive Jewish Community on Hanukkah. We hope this list will help you see Hanukkah for the important outreach opportunity that it is – and the deeply meaningful holiday that it can be.
- Warmth: Share the friendly warmth of the Jewish community as the weather turns colder.
- Light: No matter how you got here, no matter what road you took, the light will illuminate your way to the Jewish community.
- Faith: Many cultures have a winter light festivals of light, making this a great holiday to share with others from different backgrounds.
- Communal Memory: See yourself as part of the collective story of the Jewish people, see how it unfolds in the story of Hanukkah, and claim it as your own.
- Rededication: There is a place for you in the Jewish community no matter how long you’ve been away or even if you’ve never been a part of it before.
- Reconciliation: Leave behind internal conflict within the Jewish community as your community celebrates Hanukkah.
- Accessibility: Make sure that all are not only welcome to celebrate, but able to celebrate as well.
- Renewal: Adapt old Hanukkah traditions so that they continue to live and have meaning in your life.
Written by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and David A.M. Wilensky. Published in the New Jersey Jewish Standard Friday, November 21, 2013.
Parents and doting relatives of young children, take note: a new collection of Jewish stories has arrived just in time for Hanukkah. The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand transforms rich Jewish tradition into accessible stories for a new generation of children ages four and above.
Stories like “The Prince Who Thought He Was a Rooster” and “Clever Rachel” are gorgeously illustrated by Amanda Hall and feature a more gender-balanced representation of role models than Jewish tradition can sometimes provide. As a trained outreach professional and an experienced babysitter, I also appreciate the glossary of signs and symbols in the last pages of the book; while explanations are offered throughout, they are rather vague and too subtle for younger readers.
The tales collected here convey Jewish values—compassion for others, being clever and kind, the importance of human choice—that every family will find worthwhile.
Read the New York Times review here.
Jewish grandparents whose grandchildren are being raised in intermarried households can play a big role in shaping the Jewish identities of their grandchildren. And they’re more likely to get the chance to share the fun and meaning of Hanukkah with their grandchildren this year because of the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
If you’re a Jewish grandparent who often gets to spend Thanksgiving with your grandchildren, but rarely Hanukkah, can you introduce a menorah-lighting before or after the Thanksgiving meal? Or whip out a dreidel for a little fun during halftime of the Lions game? Or maybe you can add latkes to the usual Thanksgiving dishes?
Careful! Just because this year’s holiday conflict is with Turkey Day instead of Christmas, it doesn’t mean you can disregard the sensitivities of your adult children and children-in-law. Broach the subject beforehand. Keep it lighthearted and fun. Don’t let the season’s joy get gobbled up by any preexisting tensions!
To talk it out beforehand with your peers who are also thinking about this opportunity, and to address other challenges and opportunities of being a Jewish grandparent of children being raised in interfaith families, join the free Grandparents Circle email listserve at www.GrandparentsCircle.org. We welcome your voice in the conversation!
And Happy Thanksgivukkah from the Grandparents Circle and everybody at Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute!
Usually we think of the annual challenge facing American Jews—and especially interfaith families—as the conflict between Christmas and Hanukkah. I have gone on record and said many times, “Hanukkah is not a minor festival. In North America, it is a major holiday.” By now, many people have realized that this year’s calendar conflict will occur in November rather than in December: between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. While these two holidays seem never to have been in conflict with one another, it will nevertheless challenge the religious mindset of folks as they consider which celebration will take precedence over the other, especially since Hanukkah has become the national Jewish holiday. One enterprising young man has already weighed in with his Menurkey, a Hanukkiyah that looks like a turkey. I am sure that as we leave this string of fall holidays behind, more ingenuity and practical solutions will emerge.
Admittedly, the Jewish holiday cycle and calendation, that is, figuring out when holidays take place and for how long (in the soli-lunar Hebrew calendar), is among the most challenging for those on the periphery of Jewish life. It gets even more confusing when you add the Israeli interpretation of the holiday calendar (slightly different and mostly followed by the Reform movement, as well). (I’ll let you in on a little secret: it is also challenging for those on the inside.) That’s among the reasons why people often find it difficult to get in sync with the rhythm of Jewish life. As a result, especially when a creative environment is not built for them, they simply opt out.
There are basically two primary holiday cycles in the Jewish religious calendar. The fall holidays actually begin toward the end of the summer, at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. This initiates the period of intensive introspection that includes Rosh Hashanah and culminates in Yom Kippur. But the seasonal cycle doesn’t conclude until the holiday that is the end cap for Sukkot: Simchat Torah, which celebrates the year-long cycle of reading the Torah. The spring holidays begin with Pesach (Passover) and after a period of counting down toward the barley harvest (called Sefirat Haomer) and the giving of the Torah at Sinai, this period concludes with the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the spring harvest, or more specifically, the barley harvest.
Admittedly, the building of a sukkah is what I usually call a high barrier ritual experience. Even with the growth of prefabricated sukkot (the plural of sukkah), and a growing number of people who install them, it is still a relatively small percentage of people who actually build sukkot in their backyards. As a result, most sukkot are limited to synagogue yards, some kosher restaurants, and, of course, the infamous Chabad sukkah-mobile, which is driven through major cities offering people the opportunity to step inside.
Over the past few years, we have seen some sukkot in public spaces such as Reboot’s “Sukkah in the City” project held in New York City’s Union Square last year. (This has recently been issued as a film, just in time for Sukkot.) Although this holiday epitomizes the Jewish value of “welcoming guests,” fewer people are invited into sukkot than invited around the Passover seder table, for example. Thus, I am proposing that we bring back the notion of Sukkot as a “pop-up” experience and actually install temporary sukkot—even more temporary than the festival itself, which lasts eight days—in public spaces for all to enjoy. At Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI), we advocate a theoretical construct called Public Space Judaism, actually taking Judaism outside—from the four walls of community institutions—to public spaces so that people can “stumble over Judaism,” as I am want to say.
How well are you able to share the meaning and value of the Jewish High Holidays with your family?
Here’s how NOT to feel lost and confused during the High Holidays, and truly find the benefit, even if you didn’t grow up celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We invite you to join us for High Holiday Highlights.
High Holiday Highlights is a FREE one-time webinar (interactive online session) from the staff of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute and Kit Haspel, a Mothers Circle Coordinator at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
This webinar will empower you to better understand the value and meaning of the holidays, and provide the opportunity not only to learn, but to interact with fellow participants about blessings and prayers, food traditions, and activities you can do to share the beauty of the holiday with your family.
• When: Wednesday, August 21 at 2:00pm EDT.
• Where: Via phone and any computer connected to the Internet!
• How: RSVP to JOI Communications Manager Amanda Kaletsky here to receive the link.
• Who: Anyone who wants to learn more about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Please feel free to invite any friends, family, or colleagues who may be interested!
High Holiday Highlights is brought to you by The Mothers Circle, a program for women of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children.
I have always rejected the theology of sinat chinam (literally, senseless hatred), the notion employed by classic/traditional Jewish theologians that suggests Gd used the agency of the enemies of ancient Israel to destroy the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and send the Jewish people into exile. Thus, it troubles me when contemporary thinkers suggest that sinat chinam (in this case referring to the animus that exists between various streams in the Jewish community) will once again lead to dire consequences (without regard to the implicit correlate that Gd would once again use others to “teach the Jewish people a lesson”).
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, suggested that ahavat chinam (which I translate as “unconditional love”) is the only way to mitigate sinat chinam. Of course, he implied that such a posture would lead to the messianic era, something that I can accept, with its various complements, such as the building of the third Temple (something that really doesn’t interest me at all).
According to the very complicated Jewish religious calendar, it is three weeks after Tisha B’av (literally, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av) which marks various calamities in Jewish history, including the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. As a result, each Shabbat we read one of a succession of Haftarot of consolation, whose prophetic words are supposed to bring us comfort after such vast catastrophes, as if it were even possible to do so. And now, as we approach the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins this week, anticipating the fall holidays, particularly the healing implicit in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are to add on the element of personal introspection.
In our latest edition of The Mothers Circle-Shalom Sesame holiday resource guide, we take a look at the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, which begins at sundown on Tuesday May 14th, and ends at sundown on Thursday May 16th.
Shavuot is a spring holiday that celebrates the first harvest, the ripening of the first fruits, and most importantly, the giving of the Torah. The holiday can offer a wonderful entry point into Jewish life. Entry points, in fact, are at the very heart of this holiday, particularly because of its connection to the Book of Ruth, which is traditionally read on Shavuot during late-night (or even all night!) study sessions. Shavuot is also known for the delicious foods eaten, including blintzes and cheesecake.
For more about this unique holiday, including activities, video and discussion questions, and more, click here to download the free Shavuot resource guide. And please feel free to share!
Also, be sure to visit The Mothers Circle Facebook page to share how you will be celebrating Shavuot with your family, by leaving us a comment on the post about this fun guide. You can even share photos of the tzedakah boxes you make!
I’ve recently returned from a long-awaited vacation in Israel, where I had the pleasure of celebrating the Passover seder (ritual meal) at an Upper Galilee kibbutz (communal settlement) with my immediate family and… five hundred other kibbutz members, affiliates, and invitees. The cafeteria-style dining hall was filled with long tables arranged around a central stage on which local talent sang, recited, and performed segments of the Hagaddah (the text traditionally read on Passover, retelling the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt). The kibbutz first graders sang the Four Questions with the entire crowd responding with the refrain. Four child-and-parent pairs, dressed in appropriate costumes, acted out the story of the Four Children.
Aside from the size of the event, a sharp-eyed North American Jewish observer would have noticed some other differences between this celebration and a traditional seder. For one, there was virtually no mention of God. The kibbutz hagaddah - now close to a century in existence - removes God from the text and enhances it with content thought to be more relevant to life in Israel, such as songs about spring, renewal, and rebirth. Other sections considered problematic (such as the plea to “pour Your wrath on the nations who do not know You”) were replaced with statements about hope for peace. All during the week of Passover, the communal dining hall serves matzah AND bread. This bread is bought and frozen before the holiday (buying bread during Passover in Israel is possible, but entails driving the extra mile or two to the nearest Arab village. Freezing is easier). I grew up celebrating Passover in this way, so I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to come back to it, even more so now that I could share it with my young son.
When I was a student, I worked as an archivist at the American Jewish Archives. It was there that I got into the habit of reading as many Anglo-Jewish newspapers as possible. This allowed me to keep up on the various activities in local Jewish communities. It also helped bolster my interest in American Jewish history and the contemporary American Jewish community, an interest that I maintain to this day. I also continue to read all of those Anglo-Jewish newspapers, although there are fewer today than there were 35 years ago when I was a student. And while on-line news is eclipsing print newspapers very quickly, there are still many things that I can glean from a print newspaper that I don’t always catch when reading something on-line. Perhaps it is a generational thing or perhaps it is the difference in media.
Each year, about this time, I review all of the coverage of Hanukkah events. And usually the photos that I see are what I expect; bearded rabbis lighting giant menorahs (hanukiyot) with local politicians. While I have nothing against these rabbis and generally celebrate their work and their methods, I am always disillusioned, feeling that the American Jewish community has defaulted the public celebration of Hanukkah to a small group of American Jews and their rabbis.
Until this year.
This year, more people will celebrate the holiday of another religion with friends and family than ever before, largely due to intermarriage and our increasingly multicultural society. When helping others to celebrate their traditions, it may be fun and useful to know a little about how the two main December holidays are similar, and how they differ. The below tidbits may add to the appreciation of the other’s holiday, or enable you to better explain your own traditions—or simply provide a good ice-breaker over eggnog or latkes.
Did you know the holidays are similar in that…
1. Both Hanukkah and Christmas have roots in the Winter Solstice. The shortening of the days was the basis for many holidays that pre-date Hanukkah and Christmas. In ancient Rome, December 25th was considered the birthday of the sun, and many cultures who celebrate the Winter Solstice do so by lighting large bonfires both in public and near their homes. Others see it as a purifying holiday and incorporate ritual cleansings into their celebrations.
The staff of Big Tent Judaism / The Jewish Outreach Institute wish you a Happy Hanukkah!
How are you sharing the light this Hanukkah? Click here tell us below!
In the spirit of opening the tent, our staff are opening their doors and sharing the light this Hanukkah in many ways– through both their work here at JOI, as well as at home and in public spaces with family and friends. We invite you to leave your comment about how you plan to share the light this Hanukkah, and we wish everyone a safe, bright, and happy holiday!
Some might say that the new year began with Rosh Hashanah. I know the technical argument: there are actually four new years in the Jewish calendar. (I have always said that calendation is probably the most confusing aspect of Jewish religious and ritual life.) And the one we recently celebrated might best be described as the religious New Year (because it is the anniversary on which the Jewish people acclaimed Gd as Sovereign Ruler. That is why this year is 5773, not because we actually believe that the world is only 6000 years old). But many of us contend now that the fall holidays have finally concluded, we can actually begin the year. And it is already the middle of October!
Ironically, the Hebrew month that begins next week has been renamed Marcheshvan (literally, the bitter Cheshvan, the original name of the month) supposedly because we are bitter that there are no Jewish holidays in that month. I have always explained its bitterness this way: no matter how much teshuvah (repentance) work we do on Yom Kippur (and even extend it to Hoshanah Rabbah), there is still some residual bitterness in our soul that is left to deal with. That is one of the spiritual reasons that Sukkot is so filled with joy and culminates with Simchat Torah, an attempt to flush our spiritual systems of any of this residual bitterness of spirit.
Nonetheless, the holidays, for those of us who fully embrace them, are overwhelming and all-consuming. I often joke, “Whose idea was it anyway to place them all together? Couldn’t they have been spread out just a little?” And, of course, no one ever thinks that the Jewish holidays are “on time.” They are either “early” or “late.” But I actually enjoy them—if that is the right word when we include Yom Kippur in the mix. They provide me with a strong foundation for the year ahead. In some sense, they function like Shabbat—which provides me with a respite so that I can face the week ahead. But unlike Shabbat, the fall holidays begin by raising me to the heights of Sinai on Rosh Hashanah, and then the depths of Sheol on Yom Kippur and then fill me with joy and celebration—even more so—on Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
I was fortunate to share the holidays with three different synagogue communities in three different geographical locations this year. They observed the calendars somewhat differently—even if the liturgy and ritual were the same. Some of the focus was on children, some on families, and some on adults. When the holidays are allowed to be fully observed and communicate on their own, they have a lot to say. We just have to rid ourselves of the internal noises that all too often claim our attention if we want to listen.
And if we listen carefully, there is profound wisdom to be heard.
Alicia Scotti, a former Mothers Circle participant turned facilitator of Mothers Circle programs, has blogged for JOI.org in the past and is especially good at sharing her experiences raising Jewish children. Today, she offers her perspective on what celebrating Sukkot has meant to her family. For more guidance on how you can bring Sukkot into your family’s life, visit The Mothers Circle Guide to Sukkot here.
Sukkot was never much on my radar. Actually it didn’t really get there until several years ago, when my oldest was already halfway through high school (We live in NYC, which explains a lot.) Every year our temple would have a sukkah decorating party, to which we’d bring gourds, apples, and different things to tie to the structure that the maintenance staff had erected earlier that day. Afterward, we’d attend a Sukkot service, and we’d all huddle in the structure to shake the lulav and smell the etrog. It was always fun, but that was the extent of our Sukkot.
One year, out of the blue, my husband decided we should get our own lulav and etrog. Once he made that decision, it was a big deal! He did a lot of research about where to get the best ones, and conveniently one was our local Judaica store. Of course, however, he was working and couldn’t get away, so he sent me. Inside, there was a table stacked with etrogs, and another with the lulavs. The place was packed with people reaching over each other and pushing to get closest to the table to smell and examine each one until somehow miraculously the perfect one was found, and then on to the next table! I had no idea what I was doing, but I can smell. I can examine and take a good guess. So that’s what I did.
There are few sights more stunning than the changing of the leaves as summer turns to fall, and the Jewish calendar presents the perfect opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this time of year through the harvest festival of Sukkot. Arriving just five days after our solemn observance of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Sukkot is a celebration of gratitude for what we have and what is to come in the exciting year ahead. While you may notice that Sukkot is not as widely celebrated or acknowledged as the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, one can find many parallels to American Thanksgiving, as the pilgrims used this Biblical holiday as a template for their Thanksgiving celebration.
Like Thanksgiving, Sukkot celebrates our history and our connection to nature. You can now learn more about the holiday through The Mothers Circle Guide to Sukkot, which offers an introduction to its symbols and rituals, as well as ideas for celebrating with your families and making it your own. We invite you to take some time during this “Season of Our Rejoicing” (as Sukkot as often called) to celebrate the beauty of autumn through this unique and joyous holiday. Chag Sameach (Hebrew for “Happy Holiday”), and Happy Fall!
Sunday (July 29, 2012) is Tisha B’av, a day of commemoration named by its date on the Hebrew calendar. (Of course, it begins the prior evening, as do all Jewish calendar observances.) Ironically, this year, Tisha B’av (literally, the ninth day of the month of Av) is held on the tenth of the month of Av, a calendar shift made by the rabbis when the ninth day of Av falls on Shabbat. While this day marks the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, it has come to be the day that marks much of Jewish historical catastrophe (except those that are marked separately such as Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Memorial Day). Tisha B’av is a full fast day (like Yom Kippur); it is a day of mourning. Thus, many—not all—of the behaviors associated with Yom Kippur are also associated with Tisha B’av.
Admittedly, I have always had a tough time with Tisha B’av. Early Reformers simply rejected it out of hand. I presume it snuck back into the calendar of liberals through the program staff at Jewish summer camps. And it is also caught in the trend of reclaiming those rituals and observances that were rejected because they were seen to separate us from our non-Jewish neighbors. This is no longer the case for this generation of fully American American Jews. Nevertheless, I struggle with Tisha B’av. I don’t buy the traditional reason for the destruction of the Temples as sinat chinam (senseless hatred, referring to the hate among Jews for one another), although I do see such behaviors as increasing in this generation, and I worry about them. I also don’t see the diaspora in its more traditional terms as galut (exile), something that was traditionally associated with the destruction of the Temple. Rather, I see the so-called diaspora as an opportunity for the Jewish people to fulfill its obligation as or lagoyim (a light unto the nations). And I certainly don’t see us mourning Jerusalem at a time where we celebrate her as the heart and soul of modern Israel, as a place, for me, where heaven and earth touch.
A year ago, I met a wonderful woman who is Korean American and grew up going to church. Last night for Hanukkah, that same woman (now my wife-to-be) hosted a latke fry for our friends and made sweet potato kimchi latkes. (All completely her idea.) And they were delicious! When we first started dating, we worried about our differences. But now we see our differences as opportunities. (Especially when it comes to food.)
She’s not converting. She even said she still wants a Christmas tree, because it’s what she grew up with. But she loves the idea of Hanukkah and other Jewish traditions. She appreciates the family aspect, the songs, the tradition…..and of course the opportunity to fuse our cultures together in creative ways.
What’s particularly interesting to me is that, before I met her, I was what you might call a not-so-engaged Jew. But the more I see Jewish holidays, traditions, and culture through her eyes, the more I appreciate what I like about being Jewish, and the better I am able to answer the question for myself of why be Jewish. As a result of our flexibility, open-mindedness, and teamwork, plus all the great things about Judaism, we are in a much better position to make sure our children grow up with Judaism as well.
I’m not saying sweet potato kimchi latkes are by themselves the key to interfaith bliss. But they are a tasty representation of how one plus one can equal three when it comes to interfaith relationships. That said, just in case you do want to try them out yourself, here’s the recipe from Epicurious.com:
* 1 pound sweet potatoes
* 1 cup packed kimchi (7 ounces), very thinly sliced
* 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
* 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh serrano chiles (including seeds; amount depends on heat of kimchi)
* 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (from about 2 bunches)
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* About 1/2 cup corn oil or lard
Peel sweet potatoes and julienne using slicer (about 6 cups).
Stir potato together with remaining ingredients except oil. Let mixture stand at room temperature until wilted and moist, about 5 minutes, then stir again.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Filling a 1/3-cup measure halfway full with potato mixture for each pancake and working in batches of 5 or 6, tap out into oil, gently flattening pancakes with a spatula to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add oil to skillet between batches as needed. Serve warm, with dipping sauce.
Tablet Magazine featured an article by JOI Associate Executive Director Paul Golin in response to a recent trend of non-intermarried Jews telling intermarried Jews that they shouldn’t put up a Christmas tree in their home. He raises the point that each family has a right to decide for themselves how they are going to tackle the December holidays. Even though he does not choose to have a Christmas tree in his own home, despite his wife’s upbringing with one, he respects others’ decisions to include this symbol of the season:
For many Jews looking in from the outside, a Christmas tree might represent the threatening, monolithic assertion: “Christian Household.” But for vast swaths of the intermarried population who put up Christmas trees but still successfully raise strongly identified Jews, that’s just not factually correct. And it’s why Tablet’s Marc Tracy drew the wrong red line when he wrote on the Scroll that the flexibility of identity requires some limits “and celebrating Christmas is beyond that limit.”
Really? Why does anyone get to decide that limit for someone else?
The overwhelming majority of Jews pick and choose which Jewish laws they find meaningful and which they reject. Keeping kosher all the time? Rejected by 85 percent of American Jewry. Believing homosexuality is an abomination? Thankfully, rejected by a growing majority. When we start telling each other that our own individual red lines are the universally accepted “Jewish” red lines—and if you cross them, you’re a bad Jew—our community descends into recriminations. Those of us working to actually grow the Jewish community understand that the message of “our way or the highway” more often than not results in the highway. Rather than telling people what they shouldn’t do, why not provide more ways for them to express their Jewish identity?
We at JOI support intermarried families raising Jewish children, regardless of their decision to have or not have Christmas trees in their homes. As Jews, we should be thankful for the fact that they have chosen to raise their children in the Jewish faith, and be open to the idea that they have a right to decide if and how to incorporate the non-Jewish partner’s traditions. Let’s focus on sharing what we love about being Jewish rather than chastising people for doing it “wrong.”
[cross-posted from the Huffington Post]
There has long been a war brewing in America over a December religious holiday and no, I don’t mean the silly non-issue “War on Christmas.” I’m talking about the heated debate that has pitted brother against brother, rabbi against gabbai: The Hubbub Over How to Spell the Jewish Festival of Lights.”
Every year around this time we at the Jewish Outreach Institute receive several “correct spelling” requests for the holiday’s name, usually from well-meaning grade-school teachers who want to present a multicultural front for the inevitable celebrating of Christmas in their public schools. My answer to them is always the same. Yes, there is only ONE way to spell the holiday’s name, and that is: חנוכה.
Celebrating Hanukkah is certainly an exciting part in creating a Jewish home. We light the hanukiyah, sing songs, play dreidel, and commemorate the triumph of religious freedom. Of course many of us also exchange gifts and participate in the season’s theme of giving. There are plenty of smiles during the gift-giving, but it also may seem overwhelming; one may feel that a sense of meaning has been lost if the activity does not take into account the world we live in today. As we prepare for Hanukkah this year, consider using Hanukkah as an opportunity to look beyond our home and to our greater world.