As I write, Thanksgiving is almost over and Hanukkah is coming up fast. Is there anything new or different about Hanukkah to share? I am sure as the days pass, we will see many articles, blogs, websites and more (even new books!), but today in a world that is nervous and hopefully reaching out to one another in a socially distanced way, what can we take from this holiday season to draw us closer to our shared values and experiences? To this goal, I searched found an amazing article on myjewishlearning.com from 2015.
Rachel Jarman Myers wrote an article titled “Celebrating Hanukkah…Even If You Don’t Celebrate Hanukkah.” She shared a post from the New Orleans Mom Blog about the top five reasons to teach your children about Judaism. The mom is not Jewish but “she’s a mom who wants her children to know that they live in a world where their family’s way of celebrating is not the only way to celebrate.” Ashley’s five reasons are an interesting mix of ideas. Here they are (a few points shortened a bit):
5 Reasons to teach your children about Judaism
- Ignorance is not bliss. A friend of mine recently attended a shower where the guest of honor opened a platter that was decorated with dreidels. This wouldn’t be that unusual, except for the fact that the guest of honor had no idea what the dreidels were, nor did she celebrate Hanukkah. The gift giver chose the platter because she “thought it was pretty.” A valid reason, of course, but I want my own children to recognize a dreidel, menorah and Star of David. I also vividly remember a moment in college where a friend confided in me, “I’ve never met anyone who’s Jewish.” In my head I thought, “How do you know? Do you ask everyone their religion when you first meet them?” I feel about religion the way I feel about a lot of topics; not talking about them, even when we don’t ourselves know all the answers, won’t necessarily make them nonexistent. I am honest with my kids when I don’t know something, but I tell them we can look it up together to find out.
- Religion is really interesting. Regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, there are some really interesting philosophical conversations that can happen around religion. Even if I think I won’t agree with something, you know what? I read it anyway. You may even learn something in the process that helps you. I want my children to read everything they can get their hands on, think critically about it and decide how to use that information.
- It’s part of our history. My paternal grandmother was one of the most devout women you’d ever meet. She faithfully went to temple every Friday night, observed Passover and taught me the difference between a bat and bar mitzvah. As you entered her back door, you couldn’t help but notice the mezuzah. Even though my own parents raised me as a Christian, Judaism is part of my family’s history. Therefore, my children deserve to learn about it.
- Christmas is not the only holiday. I want my kids to be sensitive to the fact that while they’re begging Santa for Legos and Ariel dresses and singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” the child sitting next to them in class may not relate. My sentiments on this are best summarized in my all-time favorite holiday song:
“Here in my house there are candles burning bright, one for every night of the holiday. We gather with friends, sharing gifts and happy times. Happy Hanukkah. And in my neighbor’s house, the lights are shining, too. Red and green and blue ’round the door. The sound of jingle bells and laughter everywhere. Merry Christmas, and many more. Season of light. Season of cheer. Season of peace, may it last throughout the year.” Not so different, is it?
- Matzo ball soup and latkes are divine, and Jewish weddings are a blast. OK, so this may be totally superficial, but if you haven’t had legit matzo ball soup or latkes, you are missing out. Trust me on this. I also have never attended a Jewish wedding that didn’t leave my feet sore and my voice hoarse.
These points are directed at parents of young children but they are essential messages we can share with adults. This important statement she writes is for all: “I want my children to understand that their beliefs aren’t everyone’s beliefs, and while I want them to be confident in what they believe, I also want them to be open-minded enough to consider other ideas and perspectives.” Don’t we wish that for everyone? Sussman and Robinson wrote in the beautiful children’s book, “There’s No Such Thing as a Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein,” of the feelings of the little girl: “I hated Sandy Goldstein for having a Chanukah bush…because I wanted one.” Can we share our neighbor’s celebration and keep our own? Of course, but we begin by being open to others — so get ready because Hanukkah is almost here!