By Laura Seymour
Hanukkah is more than a children’s holiday — it has an amazing story. Did you know the Maccabees were zealots? Did you know the fight began as one of Jew against Jew? Did you know that the real fear was not physical extermination but spiritual annihilation?
The message to us is one of standing up for our beliefs because we know what we believe and we are proud of who we are. Let us teach our children to know who they are through our learning and understanding. The current challenges and issues in our country demonstrate the importance of this.
Hanukkah has many wonderful rituals, and families continue to create new traditions to teach the special messages that are part of the historical event — a wonderful opportunity. What are the messages we want our children to understand?
Despite pressure to conform, Mattathias and his five sons refused to bow down to idols. Being a Maccabee, whether long ago or today, means fighting for the right to be different and being proud of those differences.
We also teach our children that being small does not mean being insignificant. The Jewish people have always been small in number, but we have always been strong in spirit. We know that each of us can make a difference in the world. And this is the legacy of the Maccabees and the celebration of Hanukkah!
Hanukkah is also a wonderful time to create new traditions. You have time to get ready, so start planning. Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox, with her family, added new rituals and here are her “Favorite Hanukkah Happenings!”
Cover the tables so the children can paint murals, make figures out of clay, make a new chanukkiah for the season and more.
Invite friends who like to play instruments and sing and have a songfest with a little karaoke (and maybe a talent show).
Do something for others — buy a gift to donate, go to a home for the elderly, collect food and deliver to a shelter.
The gift for the night is a book for each person followed by reading and storytelling.
A night for a big family night, or if you live far from family this is the night to call everyone on the phone.
Watch a movie together — pick one that can be a family favorite for years to come (and, of course, make popcorn).
Big Ticket Night
The gift for the night is tickets to a cultural event that everyone in the family can attend.
Homemade Presents Night
Definitely the favorite — make presents for each member of the family or draw lots to make one for a special person.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.