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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Purim comes but once a year and when it comes you know it’s here–because people get really silly. I am not sure whether this article about Christian salt is for real. Yes, OK, maybe there is someone out there who doesn’t understand that Jews use kosher salt for removing the blood from meat and feels weirded out by salt with a Jewish star on it. But this part of the article made me think this could be a put-on:
If the salt takes off, Godlewski plans an entire line of Christian-branded foods, including rye bread, bagels and pickles.
It has been awhile since I blogged about my adventures with my almost 2-year-old son, Ariel. I am happy to report that Ariel and I have been taking a Friday morning class together. We are taking Shabbat in a Box, a class sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston’s (JCCGB) PJ Library. The premise of the class is simple. Each week we meet for the Shabbat blessings and Shabbat themed songs, stories and crafts. The PJ Library is this wonderful program where every Jewish child is sent a Jewish themed book once a month for free or a very reasonable cost.
My son’s favorite song is “We’ve got the Shabbat Spirit.” I think he likes the little dance we do as we sing about how the Shabbat Spirit is inside of different parts of our bodies and within our inner-self. Every week we do a craft, which goes in our special Shabbat box. So far we have made candle sticks and candle holders. Next class is “Things that Cover: challah covers and yarmulkes.”
The class is wonderful. Ariel understands the content and now we sing and dance about Shabbat every week. When it is time to light candles, he covers his eyes and then he loves to hold his kiddush cup up high above his head. Every week Ariel is able to participate in more of our Shabbat routine.
I hope the JCCGB’s PJ library continues to offer programming which interests and educates him, preferably on Friday mornings. Most of the parents in the class are there because, like me, they do not work on Fridays.
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 →
This has been a crazy week for me. My parents’ house had a huge fire. Do not worry, they made it out in plenty of time and no one was hurt.
My dad just called while he was standing in what used to be our family home wanting to know what he could take for me. Everything was under mud and insulation; the house is no longer structurally sound. The first thing I thought of was Zayde’s siddur–my great-grandfather’s prayerbook. Clothing can be replaced and homes can be rebuilt, but what I can’t recreate is the worn pages of this book or the times that prayerbook saw him through.
I think everyone has objects they relate to family tradition. I hope as we move into the Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Chinese New Year holiday season, everyone can create memorable traditions for our diverse families which transcend our differences and celebrate our spirit. We at InterfaithFamily.com are proud of our role in helping people create new holiday traditions.
As we look forward to Thanksgiving dinner, which is always a great experience in my family, I am full of gratitude. Even though my parents’ house is gone, I have memories of family events and late night chats in the kitchen. This year I am thankful for those memories, and so much more for the new ones my family will create.
A story in IsraelNationalNews.com 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.
I admit it. I’ve never been that interested in Halloween. I went through a phase of feeling guilty that Halloween was a watered-down version of this major Celtic pagan holiday Samhain. Then several pagan and Wiccan friends of mine told me that I shouldn’t feel guilty. Well, all right. I can go feel guilty about something else, and go trick-or-treating with my kid if he wants. He wants.
My son thinks Halloween is the bomb. He went through a totally different sort of phase of wanting to borrow books about Halloween out of the library. He’s not a big candy eater, but he does like to get candy to give away to others and to eat in small amounts over such a long period that we throw out the last of it at Passover. He also likes the whole costume-magical-cutting up pumpkins element of things, because it indulges his mistaken notion that I am crafty. He told us last night that he wants to be a jukebox for Halloween, but luckily he’s figured out how to make the costume himself without me buying a sewing machine. (“Like Anna’s mom.”)
In the meantime, some wonderful person left a bowl of these amazing chocolate covered stuffed dates in the kitchen of the offices we share with many other Jewish organizations. So I had the insight that, because the dates are from Saudi Arabia, we could be interfaithCANDY.com. Ha ha, thank you, thank you, I’m here all week folks.
I’ll just embed my Jewish-themed Halloween video now, shall I? It’s below the cut. Continue reading →
I miss my grandmother lately, and apparently I’m not the only one. Perhaps it is the season of the year, one in which Jews commemorate dead relatives and friends at memorial (Yizkor) services on Yom Kippur and on Shemini Atzeret at the end of Sukkot. Perhaps it is because of the economic downturn–we wish we could have a voice of wisdom.
One of my favorite bloggers, Vegan Lunchbox posted a link to this 92-year-old grandmother, Clara, who is showing people how to do Depression Cooking on Youtube. Check her out.
Clara might be competition for my favorite youtube grandma on Feed Me Bubbe. The 89-year-old Bubbe is nothing like my grandmother. For one thing, my grandmother did not grow up speaking Yiddish, and I called her Grandma. My son really loves this bubbe though. I like the way she sells the food to you while she cooks it.
My colleague circulated a link to the blog Margaret and Helen. I don’t know. This doesn’t sound a lot like any of the grandmothers I know. She’s very political and her language is kind of salty. Whether Helen Philpot is for real or not, she fills a need. We want to hear from grandmothers.
I always thought that being into our grandparents was a Jewish cultural value. After all, we have the expression, “and you will see your children’s children and peace will be on Israel.” If so, then probably everyone is Jewish. Elephants are Jewish, because they have grandmothers, and dolphins are Jewish, and a whole lot more people are Jewish than we thought. Well, if loving your grandma makes you Jewish, I mean. You might as well say that it’s uniquely Jewish to like chocolate, or hugging. Or blintzes. Bubbe will show you how to make them from scratch below the cut. Continue reading →
I don’t know why, but this Yom Kippur was really good for me, like the exhilarating ones I use to have when I was in my 20s. Maybe working here at IFF has made a dent in my spiritual ennui? I was swept up in the traditional prayers, and yet it all–fasting, praying, thinking about sin–felt a lot easier to do than usual. I looked with fresh eyes at the fact that we confess our sins in alphabetical order, thinking both about all the families at IFF who were doing it for the first time and about my kindergartener, who loves coming up with lists of words in alphabetical order. (He was in childcare while I was reciting the confessions, but I still thought about his alphabet love and it made me feel like we were part of a a great tradition together.)
I have a few post-Yom Kippur links to share–two serious and one very silly–and then it’s on to the next big serious Jewish holiday of the fall season, Sukkot!
I received a book in the mail this morning, I Live Here. The book is actually a four volume graphic novel documenting with art and words the experiences of individuals living through major world crises. Actress Mia Kirschner, a child and grandchild of Holocaust survivors, led the large team that put together the project. The website is full-bore multimedia with a lot of video, and you can see pages from the book there if your computer system is up to it.
I also wanted to link people to another online resource, Centropa.org. This is a site that makes available interviews with Holocaust survivors from Central Europe. It’s got a tool for high school students to share their history projects with each other, and lots of ways to search.
Our regular columnist Nate Bloom made sure we saw this video, all about the practice in the Jewish community of selling tickets for High Holiday services. My Havurah doesn’t sell tickets, but I still found this funny. Thanks, Nate! Video is below the cut. Continue reading →
I hope all our readers had a good and meaningful Rosh Hashanah. I have some good and meaningful links for you.
Lilith magazine sent us a preview of some articles that they are going to run in their next print issue called Switchbacks on the Road to Judaism. The three writers of the articles in the .pdf file are sensitive in their treatment of gender issues and interfaith families.
Another good and serious thing (appropriate for the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is Jewish Social Action Month. This year it will begin on October 30, in order to overlap with the month of Heshvan on the Hebrew calendar. It’s a great chance to take advantage of the end of the Jewish holiday season and reinfuse your Judaism with social meaning.
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