Guest Column by Rabbi Ari Leubitz
We have a unique opportunity and challenge this year. Chanukah falls late in the month, so we are on a school break during all eight days.
If we are deliberate in our planning, we can all find new ways to celebrate and share the Chanukah light authentically. It can be volunteering in the community, focusing on community service, practicing tikkun olam, or just sharing a nice family meal and learning and creating Chanukah memories after lighting the menorah together. The focus is to find those special ways to bring the essence of Chanukah to the forefront for ourselves and our children.
It is important to remember that the essence of Chanukah is more than just a military victory or a miracle of lights and oil. It represents something that was as important over 21 centuries ago as it still is today.
The Jewish people were victorious in their refusal to assimilate into the Hellenistic culture. We didn’t want to just go with the flow — when do we ever? — and accept their teachings, celebrations and beliefs.
Today, we face a similar battle. Although in the United States we are not pushed toward other holidays or religions on a daily basis, we are surrounded by them.
This problem becomes even more apparent during this time of the year. Everywhere we turn outside our community, we are exposed to the lights, decorations, music and festivities of surrounding cultures. They are beautiful and bright and special, but they are not ours.
This time of year, it becomes challenging and more imperative to embrace our Judaism. To show our pride as members of this incredible community. To remember our Jewish values and those we share with our children daily. To remind ourselves and our families about the essence of Chanukah and about the focus we have as Jews to stand strong and hold tight to our connection to our community.
Notice my word choices here: Embrace and hold tight.
This is an important time to communicate and demonstrate a deep love for our faith and heritage, to encourage our feeling for and attachment to Judaism, and to embrace it.
I have found over the years that the holidays that resonate most with the children — those they will remember into their adulthood — are those that are infused with meaning and purpose (and some of your Nana’s delicious brisket doesn’t hurt).
These memories and meaning will create a connection for your children to the holiday and will help them embrace our beautiful Jewish community long after the Chanukah candles are gone.
Wishing you a beautiful holiday with your friends and family. Chag sameach.
Some events and resources for Chanukah:
- Event: Grand Menorah Lightings around Atlanta
- Online event: Share the Lights World Project
- Event: Young Israel of Toco Hills pre-Chanukah carnival, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Event: Pinch Hitter Program
- Article: Teaching the Meaning of Chanukah
- Article: 8 Thoughts for 8 Nights
- Article: Making Chanukah with Children Meaningful
- Article: Chanukah Insights and Stories
- Video: The Fight for Freedom
Rabbi Ari Leubitz is the head of school at Atlanta Jewish Academy.