This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
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“A Light Through the Ages” tells the meaning of Chanukah through story and song. With musicians from Zamir Chorale of Boston, Joshua Jacobson artistic director and original story by Rabbi Howard A. Berman of Central Reform Temple, this event concludes with a dramatic candle light ceremony. A festive reception follows.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
I think that I have joined the ranks of the people for whom Hanukkah is not minor. Why? Because I am the parent of a school-age child now.
My son, super kindergarten kid, goes to public school, which ends long before my workday here at IFF. After school, he participates in two different afterschool programs: one at his public school for three days a week, and a nifty Hebrew afterschool program for two days. It’s like Hebrew school, only mellow and relaxed, which is good because he’s just a little guy.
All the children at the Hebrew program are excited about Hanukkah. It’s their favorite. Some come from households with two Jewish parents, some from households with one Jewish parent. So?
They are learning to sing some of the songs we sing here at home: “Maoz Tzur,” which I first learned in English as “Rock of Ages,” and Ner Li Ner Li. (“I have a little candle.”) The Israeli teachers got all the children singing “Banu Hoshekh L’Garesh,” We Have Come to Banish the Darkness, an old Israeli song about cooperative action. “Each one of us is a little light and together we are a great light.” I can get behind that! Continue reading →
First of all, I was reading the enormous stack of Jewish newspapers that I surround myself with at my office, when I found this article in the Jewish Journal Boston North about a company that sends “The Intermarriage Holiday Special,” which is Hanukkahgelt, Christmas candle and a half gallonÂ of chicken soup with noodles and/or matzah balls.
I also saw a great new iPhone application, iMenorah. It’s not a free one but they are going to give some ofÂ the profit to charity. Â I would have embedded the video if they had said which charity. My husband is the one in our familyÂ with the iPhone. He’s got the ocarina app. He does sometimes let us use his iPhone, but I don’t think you can fulfill the mitzvah of lighting virtual Hanukkah candles so I’m going to stick with the old wax-and-matches-method.
If you are trying to calm yourself from purchasing all the adorable little tchochkes that are out there, the folks at the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life have suggestions for simplifying Hanukkah. I had never thought of “cheap gift night,” which sounds really fun, but of course in our house “book night” is going to be the most popular.
I just saw a notice that there will be a Hanukkah special on PBS this week, and it features some Jewish musicians whose work I really like. It’s called Lights and you can find the local listings for your PBS station on Craig Taubman’s website. The most exciting to me is the Klezmatics, who are going to sing one of the songs from Woody Guthrie Hanukkah album that they did, Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Other performers include a well-known African-American Jewish gospel artist, Joshua Nelson, the adorable Brooklyn singer-songwriter Michelle Citrin, and a famous Sephardiccantor, Alberto Mizrachi. Continue reading →
Many on the internet are so filled with glee about this Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Hanukkah song that they are making comparisons with Adam Sandler. Here it is, hope you think it’s funny. If not, at least you were among the first to find it on the internet:
Other people are not thinking about the December holidays. I am, though. I am soliciting, writing and editing material for our website about what it’s like to be in an interfaith family in December, when Christmas is. (Did you know that? Christmas is in December.) I’ve also been writing about Hanukkah, which is comparatively small potatoes. (Potatoes, get it? Potatoes? Waka waka.)
I’ve been thinking about different ways that people can make each other feel included, wanted and loved when they celebrate different holidays.Â I have read many moving and lovely stories about families making this work and I expect more in my inbox. So many people love their families and want to do right by them.
One thing I do not recommend if you’re trying to be welcomingÂ is thatÂ you buy this Christmas ornament. Go ahead, click it, I’ll wait.
Does that look to you like a flaming cross, of the kind that racists burn in people’s front yards to frighten them? Maybe it doesn’t look like that in person, but… in the photo, it really does.
A story in IsraelNationalNews.comÂ commenting on the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as President-Elect Obama’s chief of staff, and of Ron Klain as Vice President-Elect Biden’s chief of staff, leads with:
“Both appointees are Jewish, but while Emanuel is an observant Jew, Klain intermarried more than 20 years ago and his family observes Christmas.”
This is the kind of careless comment, typical of Israeli journalists, that buys into the mistaken notion that a Jew who intermarries and whose family participates in Christmas celebrations is lost to Jewish life.
The author, Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, could have said: “Both appointees are Jewish. Emanuel is a traditionally observant Jew. Klain intermarried more than 20 years ago and his family observes Christmas, but he and his wife raised their children as Jews.”
The author knows this, because buried at the end of the article, he cites a New York Times article which states: “He is married to a non-Jew with an agreement that they celebrate Christmas but raise their children as Jews.”
For all we know, Klain and his family belong to a synagogue and send their children to Hebrew school. Their children may already have become, or plan to become, bar or bat mitzvah.
There are thousands and thousands of intermarried parents like that — who participate in Christmas celebrations and who are raising their children as Jews. Many of them belong to synagogues, send their children to Hebrew school, and have bar and bat mitzvahs, at rates comparable to Reform in-married parents, as Boston’s most recent demographic study reports.
At InterfaithFamily.com we are completing our fifth annual December holidays survey. Thousands of respondents over the years have told us that their Christmas celebration has no religious meaning for them, that it is a way of respecting the tradition of the non-Jewish parent without compromising the Jewish identity of their children. Jewish people celebrate Christmas with Christian friends and relatives as a gesture of connection, not denial of Jewish identity.
The Jewish community ought to be just as proud of the appointment of Klain as it is of Emanuel, and not create artificial distance between Klain and the community because of his marriage.
My sister-in-law called me last night and as I answered the phone she said “How do you spell dreidel?” I was taken aback for a second. Not only could I not think of any reason my non-Jewish Irish Catholic sister-in-law was asking for the spelling of dreidel — I didn’t actually know how to answer her. It seems that transliterated spelling of any Hebrew word can be spelled a dozen plus different ways. I quickly googled the word while I was on the phone with her and suggested she spell it d-r-e-i-d-e-l. Then I asked, “Why?”
It turns out my nephew’s pre-school asked parents to tell them how their kids spend the holidays. In our family, my husband is Roman Catholic and we are raising my two sons Jewish, we throw a family Hanukkah party each year. It started about four years ago when I invited my sister, her husband and my husband’s family (two brothers, his parents, grandmother, kids and spouses) over for Hanukkah. His family was so excited to learn the songs, light the candles, hear the story of Hanukkah, eat homemade latkes (the first and last time I actually made them from scratch) and jelly doughnuts and learn how to spin the dreidel.
Since then my sister has moved away, but we still have the annual Hanukkah party at our house with my husband’s family. This was why my sister-in-law needed to know how to spell dreidel, so she can tell my nephew’s preschool how he celebrated Hanukkah. Now, let’s hope she doesn’t need to know how to spell sufganiot.
After a month of publishing almost exclusively “December Dilemma”-driven content, I promised myself that there would be no more. But then a friend sent me thisÂ essay on Salon.com, whereÂ Christopher NoxonÂ explains the unique solution he and his Jewish wife found for their holiday hangups: Irving the Snowchicken.
Noxon relates how they came to hatch Irving:
Eventually, we arrived at our bottom lines. No matter how superficial or secular the holiday had become, she argued, it was still Christ’s birthday, and my beloved just couldn’t be party to that. No tree, no mistletoe, no Santa. I took stock and realized … none of that mattered to me, either. I didn’t care about the trimmings — they were mostly tacky and meaningless anyway. What mattered to me, as both a grown-up and a parent, was the make-believe. When I boiled it down, all I wanted was someone magical to break into our house and leave us cool stuff.
Every year, they and their three children devise more additions to their homespun tradition:
We now have a songbook of Winter Wonderday classics that includes a recording of “Born to Be Wild” with all-poultry vocals. While burning our wish lists, we now raise our voices in a song that includes a line written by 7-year-old Charlie: “Santa is fired from the job/ He gives presents like a slob.” We’ve also begun the custom of leaving out a tray of food near the pant-festooned mantle — Irving, the kids discovered, favors sunflower seeds and fruit juice. And we now go to great lengths to build a nest for Irving, the construction of which begins with a Winter Wonderhike to collect twigs and leaves, which we then stuff inside a ring of chicken wire (and which is mysteriously littered the next day with soft white feathers that look very much like they were clumsily extracted from an expensive pillow).
In recent years we’ve spent the evening with bowls of candy, frosting and cookie pieces, building entire encampments of Snowy North gingerbread chicken coops. And we’ve found that no Winter Wondereve is complete without a feast at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, where we delight in the combination of maple-soaked fried dough and the sacrificial body of our host.
From the Jewish perspective, their solution is brilliant. While we’ve shown that families can celebrate Christmas and still be unambiguously Jewish, there is no chance that a family that elevates Irving the Snowchicken will be confused religiously. There’s no religious content to Irving; he’s just a mythical figure who brings gifts, like the tooth fairy.
The most obvious argument against Irving is that the particularity of the Noxon family’s celebration isolates them from sharing in the communal spirit that is essential to most religious traditions. That’s true, but they were specifically searching for a non-religious answer to what was essentially a cultural conflict. Moreover, I’m not sure how Irving differs from other unique family traditions, like an annual summer migration to a house in Maine or a family game of capture-the-flag after Thanksgiving. Since most families’ celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah are primarily about family togetherness and gift-giving (same as Winter Wonderday), the difference between Winter Wonderday and other unique family traditions is more of degree than of kind.
In a darkened room at the San Diego Convention Center last week, nearly 1,000 people clapped, sang and danced to evening prayers, with the words projected on two large screens against a bucolic backdrop of mountain vistas and rolling streams.
Featuring a five-piece band, a small vocal ensemble and a charismatic, storytelling leader, the weekday evening service could have been held at any of the growing number of mega-churches in America.