Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Dear Parents and Children,
The season is definitely upon us and it may be better or worse that Chanukah is late! There have been programs at JCCs and synagogues for years called “The December Dilemma.” The goal of this program is to help us as parents learn how to handle our children’s questions and desires (while remembering our own). Here are a variety of thoughts and ideas — all taken from others wiser than I am!
1. Visit Christmas. Enjoy visiting your non-Jewish friends and celebrating holidays with them; be sure to include them in your holiday events. Explain to your kids, “When we play at Bobby’s house, we enjoy his toys but when we leave, we do not take the toys home. Those are Bobby’s toys. When we help decorate Bobby’s Christmas tree, we have a good time, but we don’t bring it home. We do not celebrate Christmas. Let’s invite Bobby and his family for Shabbat (or Passover or Chanukah).”
2. Don’t compete. Create meaning. We don’t need to set up Chanukah as competition or compensation for Christmas. Create traditions for all your holidays. There’s more to Christmas and Chanukah than just gifts. Judaism celebrates weekly. Make a big deal out of Shabbat!
3. Talk with friends. Discussion is more important than solutions! There are no right or wrong answers on how to deal with Santa Claus, lights, songs, etc.
4. From “40 Ways to Save the Jewish People”: Educator and author Joel Lurie Grishaver tells about a college daughter’s talk to her mother, “Mom, I actually figured out that Chanukah was one of the major reasons I never got involved with drugs or excessive drinking or promiscuous sex. From having to celebrate Chanukah when everyone else was doing Christmas, I learned that I could be different — and that was okay!”
5. There is a children’s Chanukah book issued by Kar-Ben Publishing: “Hanukkah Moon” by Deborah Da Costa. It is a story that comes from Sephardic custom. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday that spans two Jewish months — Kislev and Tevet. Therefore, we enjoy not only Chanukah but also Rosh Chodesh. One tradition of Rosh Chodesh comes from the time when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and he found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. According to the Midrash, the women refused to give their gold to help build the idol and so their reward was a special holiday once a month — Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. The tradition on Chanukah for women is that no work is to be done while the candles burn; therefore, Chanukah Rosh Chodesh is a very special night!
As you celebrate this year, each night can be a time to learn about a different country and the way that Chanukah is celebrated by those who live there. Are there different foods, different customs, different songs?
What is the same? What connects us to Jews throughout the world? Remember the story of the Maccabees and how Jew fought against Jew to keep traditions and beliefs alive. Today it continues to be a challenge to keep the essence of our Jewishness alive. We are the link in the tradition! Let us teach our children how to appreciate their differences — first, by teaching and modeling Jewish life and all the beauty of it, and second, by learning about others and then going home to what we know and love.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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