Sharing the Lights of Hanukkah

We are in the afterglow of Hanukkah, and thanks to an exciting initiative of the Big Tent Judaism Coalition, thousands of newcomers to Jewish life celebrated the holiday this year in a whole new way. Last month, the Jewish Outreach Institute developed a new Hanukkah resource that was sent to Big Tent Judaism member organizations as a way to reach unaffiliated individuals and families in their communities. We printed laminated holiday instruction cards to help those on the periphery of Jewish life celebrate Hanukkah. The “newcomer cards” were modeled after airplane safety cards, and offered clear, visually engaging and appealing instructions on how to participate in Hanukkah ritual and celebration (including candle lighting, latke-making, and driedel playing). The cards were a way of helping communities throughout North America activate the Big Tent Judaism principles of “welcoming all newcomers,” and “lowering barriers to participation.”

Almost 100 communities asked for the cards, reaching close to 8000 people around the continent. Participating organizations distributed cards through a variety of creative means. Here’s just a sample of how they helped spread the light and some of the reactions:

In suburban Connecticut, Big Tent organizations shared the cards at a town-wide holiday festival and a Hanukkah event at Macy’s. At a City Center Hanukkah extravaganza in Newport News, VA, the cards were handed out to 250 people along with gelt (chocolate coins) and a dreidel. A professional in Jacksonville, FL shared the following after facilitating Hanukkah story time at a Barnes & Nobles bookstore: “I must say the cards were wonderful. I gave them to a variety of people and they were all so appreciative.” A growing Canadian Jewish community enjoyed the cards, as did the 90 folks who attended an outreach event in Poway, CA. We heard from participants at a free community Hanukkah celebration in Eugene, OR, that the cards “were fun and easy to understand.” A heavily unaffiliated Nursery school in the Northeast gave cards to all parents, who “LOVED them,” and at a Northern California Hanukkah program at a local shopping center, the cards “disappeared like hotcakes.” And the nearly 150 attendees at a special Latke Dinner event in Michigan said they greatly appreciated the resources.

We couldn’t be happier with the reaction and the use of the Hanukkah guide. But this was just one initiative to help widen the Jewish tent. We invite you to take advantage of every new resource by coming on board and sharing the light with one more person. Invite your communities to become a part of the Big Tent Judaism coalition today!

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