J.Kids & Teens: Hanukkah Highlights

Hanukkah, or dedication in Hebrew, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the triumph of the Maccabees over the Syrians (who had outlawed Judaism) in the second century BCE. The miracle of the Temple’s meager one-day supply of oil lasting for eight until a new supply could be procured is remembered not only by the lighting of the candles but by the consumption of foods that have been cooked in oil. Like so many Jewish holidays, the accompanying rituals and traditions have become both a living memorial to our resolute ancestors and an inspiration for the present and future.

A century ago Hanukkah was in danger of being eclipsed by old Saint Nick. Many American Jews had stopped lighting the menorah in favor of exchanging Christmas gifts. Concerned Jewish clergy feared the Hanukkah lights might be extinguished forever in the New World given the rapid pace of cultural assimilation. However, after the doughboys of World War I came home, Hanukkah experienced a dramatic revival. Its proximity to Christmas inspired an expanded celebration. Simple exchanges of gelt led to more elaborate gifts, cards, decorations and festive parties. Hanukkah was transformed into an eight-day celebration of Jewish culture that highlighted our capacity for perseverance in the face of adversity.

The beauty of Hanukkah today is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Once you fulfill the basic mitzvot of lighting the candles and saying the blessing, the sky’s the limit. Your Hanukkah celebration can be a modest low-key affair, or you can party like a Maccabee. Hanukkah celebrations are taking place in a variety of sizes, shapes and locations in December. Check our print calendar as well as our online calendar at azjewishlife.com to find the perfect community celebration for you and your family.

On Dec. 11 Chabad of East Valley is hosting a “BuildYour Own Menorah” workshop at 4:30 pm at Home Depot at 2530 E Germann Road in Chandler. Home Depot supplies all the materials and the experts to oversee the wood construction and painting. Chabad provides the treats! Plus Rabbi Mendy Deitsch will demonstrate firsthand how to make olive oil from olives. Free and open to all! Sarah Saltzman, an administrative assistant at the Chabad, says that last year’s event drew about 150 attendees, 75 of whom were youngsters; each went home smiling with a new, personally made menorah.

Then on Dec. 17 Chabad of the East Valley will have its Grand Menorah Lighting at 5 pm at Phoenix Premium Outlets, 4976 Premium Outlets Way in Chandler. Last year’s theme was “Glow in the Dark” with fire-jugglers performing and glow sticks for all. For more information on either Chabad Hanukkah event, call 480-855-4333 or visit chabadcenter.com.

Congregation Merkaz Ha’Iyr, a progressive Jewish community that meets in North Central Phoenix, has created a Hanukkah music video entitled “The Dreidel Shark,” which was released at Shabbat services on Nov. 14, before being put on YouTube and the congregation’s website (congregationmerkaz.org). Member Randy Warner wrote the song about a boy who hustles other children with dreidel games. The song features Asher Kaye as the Dreidel Shark, who seems to know just where the dreidel will land each time, and Sarah Warner as lead vocalist. It includes about a dozen young members of the congregation. The video was written, directed and produced by member Stan Burech. Check it out. As the song says, “No one spins a dreidel like the Dreidel Shark!”

Pardes Jewish Day School (pardesschool.org) in Scottsdale performed its first original musical play for Hanukkah last year (pictured above). The play was entitled “Maccabia” and included the retelling of the Hanukkah story through the music of ABBA, with each class singing a song.

This year on Dec. 16, the school is performing MaccaBeatle Mania’s “Magical Hanukkah Tour,” with all classes singing to Beatle’s tunes. Sherry Saper, one of the fifth-grade teachers, wrote the script and lyrics. Sherry and the other fifth-grade teacher, Steven Campanelli, are directing the show. Tiffany Weiss, the school’s music teacher, is the music director and choreographer. Due to space limitations, seating is limited to families of students.

Tucson’s Congregation Anshei Israel’s preschool/ kindergarten (caiaz.org) hosted a special event co- sponsored with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s PJ Library on Nov. 16. Kids had fun “pinning” the head on the Lego Man, Lego Bean Bag Toss, guessing how many Legos/Duplo in a jar, and building with Duplo. Rabbi Robert Eisen and the kids crowded on stage as he told them a PJ Library Hanukkah story. Congregation Anshei Israel USY kids served 300 latkes to this very hungry group.

Prior to the main event, the Jr. USY members got together to build the base for a large Lego menorah to be on display. Then the USY teens continued the Lego menorah build started by the junior group the previous evening. The senior group added unique, abstract “candleholders” to the Hanukkiah. Seen here (from left) are Tyler Weinstein, Adina Karp, advisor Jesse Muller (rear), Remi Kauffman, Quinn Marell and Leah Tolby.

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