By Laura Seymour
As we prepare for Chanukah, many of us realize that we have a level of Jewish knowledge called “Pediatric Judaism.” But we can begin to increase our Jewish knowledge today! The holiday of Chanukah 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? Do 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.
Chanukah is a holiday with many wonderful rituals, and families continue to create new traditions to teach the special messages which 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 Chanukah!
Chanukah is a wonderful holiday to create new traditions. Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox, with her family, added new rituals and here are her “Favorite Chanukah Happenings!”
Art Night: Cover the tables so the children can paint murals, make figures out of clay, make a new chanukiah for the season and more.
Music Night: Invite friends who like to play instruments and sing, and have a songfest with a little karaoke (and maybe a talent show).
Tzedakah Night: Do something for others — buy a gift to donate, go to a home for the elderly, collect food and deliver to a shelter and so on.
Book Night: The gift for the night is a book for each person, followed by reading and storytelling.
Grandparents’ Night: Have a big family night — or, if you live far from family, this is the night to call everyone on the phone.
Movie Night: 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.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
By Laura Seymour