Honoring Hanukkah Reminds Us To Shine Bright

“As the light of our menorah shines brighter with each additional candle, may our commitment to standing with displaced people around the world grow even stronger and shine even brighter.” – Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, Director of Education at HIAS

I plan Blue Week to coincide with Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Although Hanukkah isn’t a major Jewish holiday, for some it’s an opportunity to claim Jewish heritage and be visible as Jews. For me, it is an act of reclamation and resistance honoring my own Jewish grandparents who emigrated from Russia to the United States when they were children to escape pogroms (anti-semitic violence and massacres). I introduce Hanukkah and menorah-lighting to preschoolers as “a reminder to be loving and to work for justice –what is fair and kind.”


 

Including Hanukkah in our classroom supports the Jewish heritage of those in our community by honoring the traditions of our people. At the same time, we broaden non-Jewish children’s knowledge of a holiday, play and rituals, making it harder for the seedlings of anti-Semitic prejudice to take root in our children’s minds. We provide a bit of connection to a culture and religion of a people that are sometimes marginalized and targeted.

We play dreidel and build a menorah puzzle. At circle, we sing, “Hanukkah, Oh, Hanukkah” while children take turns lighting our toy menorah. We also sing “This Little Light of Mine,” naming the value of shining our lights to be friendly and loving. 

Amidst pictures of blue whales, skies and oceans, we build with blue blocks and sculpt with blue play dough. We wear shades of blue and use the Family Share to consider blue things we like: water, ocean, eyes, blue jays, blueberries, robin’s eggs, the sky and more! We indulge in blueberries, blueberry smoothies and blueberry muffins and we gobble up delicious homemade latkes (potato pancakes). 

   

   

During Friday’s pre-K class, we invite children to make “peace puzzles.” We revisit what it means to be a friend, to be inclusive and to make peace. Each child gets to choose a word and a picture to map out what it is to be friendly and/or a peacemaker. We assemble our puzzles and bring them to the play yard to create a puzzle scavengar hunt.

 (The laminator machine is thrilling to use and coats our puzzles for safe keeping).

“The Hanukkah story is the story of an oppressed people triumphing over tryrants who sought to take away their freedom. It is the story of light triumphing over darkness, of a people overcoming seemingly impossible odds.

This is the Jewish story of people fleeing persecution, seeking asylum in our nation.Thousands of years later, Jews continue celebrating this holiday as we commit ourselves to rooting out hatred with love. We stand with those who are still oppressed today, those who still search for safety and welcome.

This Hanukkah, as the light of our menorah shines brighter with each additional candle, may our commitment to standing with displaced people around the world grow even stronger and shine even brighter.” – Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, Director of Education at HIAS

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