A Hanukkah gift for learning

Dear Families,

Was it just me or did it seem like Black Friday shopping for gifts for the holidays started in October? Many of us have become great online shoppers over the pandemic, but there is something special about going into the store and browsing hoping the perfect gift for someone will pop out. Gift giving should be a time to really think about others and what would be special for them. Now, I’m going to give you another way to think about your Hanukkah gifts (although giving gifts at Hanukkah is really a very new idea and not really part of the meaning of the holiday). What if you looked for gifts that gave a surprising Jewish learning opportunity? Before I tell you the gift that should be on your list for everyone, regardless of age, please understand that, yes, I love books BUT I also love toys. Adults should keep playing — it keeps you young and your mind active. Here is the toy and the learning for this Hanukkah!

This is from an article by Philissa Cramer in Kveller.com on Sept. 20, 2021:

This latest must-have toy was originally created in the 1970s by an Israeli couple with a penchant for playthings, according to a BBC report that calls the pop-it “an overnight sensation more than 40 years in the making.” Theo and Ora Coster created more than 150 toys and games through their company, Theora Design, including some that immediately became popular worldwide, such as “Guess Who?” and “Zingo.”

If you want to look up the rest of the article, it is titled: “This Popular Fidget Toy was Invented by Anne Frank’s Classmate” by Philissa Cramer and it originally appeared in JTA.

So who is this family and what is the toy? From the article:

Later in life, Ora encouraged Theo to document his memories of growing up in Amsterdam, where he was a classmate of Anne Frank, who, like half their class at a Jewish school, was murdered by the Nazis. (Coster survived by being sent to live with non-Jews; his parents also survived in hiding.) His efforts turned into a documentary, “Anne Frank’s Classmates,” and then a 2009 book, “We All Wore Stars.”

And the toy is the “pop it” which you can buy everywhere and in multiple shapes and sizes. It has grown and grown in popularity as we all need more fidget toys. I have a bunch because I do need a fidget, so I highly recommend them. One of them is a square with the Hebrew alphabet on one side — what a great learning tool!

The point here on buying presents for Hanukkah is that sharing with our children (and ourselves) the history of the toy accomplishes a number of things, from teaching to appreciating that everything takes an inventor to showing that you can be an inventor! And isn’t it wonderful that it isn’t hard to find the Jewish inventors of things that changed the world? (Although let’s not talk about how the Barbie Doll changed the world.)

So start Googling before you buy, and add the learning in the box with the toy! And I don’t often promote a class I will be teaching but this one is about one of my favorite Jewish heroes — SUPERMAN! Interested? Check the J website!

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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