It's not a mere quirk of the Hebrew and secular calendars that Chanukah and Christmas often fall in close proximity, even overlapping as they do this year! Despite their different historical and religious origins and themes, both celebrations fill a universal need for light at the literal darkest time of the year. The winter solstice, on December 21, marks the shortest day of the year, with the fewest hours of daylight. Both Chanukah and Christmas begin only days later, each holiday striving in its own way to illuminate the darkness both literally, with Chanukah candles and twinkly lights, and figuratively, by coming together as families and as a community to celebrate and bringing light to others in their time of need.
A popular Israeli Chanukah song begins with the words, "Banu choshech l'garesh—we have come to drive out the darkness." Inevitably, the cycle of the seasons will turn again toward spring, and the days will become longer. Still, we are the ones who can shine light into the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors in this dark season.
May each candle that we light this Chanukah bring more hope, peace, and blessing into our world.
Chag urim sameach - may the Festival of Lights be joyous for you and your family.
Rabbi Miriam Farber Wajnberg,
Director of Adult Jewish Learning and Interfaith Engagement
Celebrate Chanukah at the JCC!
It's our gift to you. Join us every night of Chanukah for candle-lighting and light refreshments, hosted by different members of our community!
Sat, Dec 24, 5:30 pm: Post R&R Havdalah, Candle-lighting and Sing-along
Sun, Dec 25, 6 pm: Gene Wilder Film Marathon
Mon, Dec 26, 5:15 pm: Hai Piasezky, Upper West Side Shaliach
Tue, Dec 27, 5:15 pm: Engage Jewish Service Corps
Wed, Dec 28, 5:15 pm: Hai Piasezky, Upper West Side Shaliach
Thu, Dec 29, 5:15 pm: Sammy Kanter, Director of 20s + 30s Programming
Fri, Dec 30, 3:30 pm: Center for Jewish Living
Sat, Dec 31, 5:30 pm: Post-R&R Havdalah, Candle -lighting and Sing-along
JCC Manhattan Gift Cards are a wonderful way to bestow the gift of the JCC on a friend, employee, or family member. Gift dollars can be used toward almost any JCC membership, program or service purchase, and have no expiration date. Some restrictions apply, including nursery school and camp.
Songs of Sacred Time: A Chanukah Concert
Wed, Dec 14, 8-9:30 pm
Rejoice in Light, Freedom + Miracles of
Chanukah with Spiritual Dance
Sat, Dec 17, 7-9 pm
Gene Wilder Film Marathon
Sun, Dec 25, noon-6 pm
20s/30s Chanukah Party
Thu, Dec 22, 7:30PM-10 pm
Mon, Dec 26, 7:15-8:30 pm
Chanukah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish fighters, against the Syrian Greeks, who in the 2nd century BCE sought to force the Jews to adopt Hellenistic culture and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem.
As they prepared to rededicate the Temple (Chanukah means "dedication"), and relight its menorah, the Maccabees found only one small jug of oil, enough to last one day but not the eight days it would take to press new olive oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight nights. Check back every day of Chanukah for a new Chanukah treat!
Chanukah activities for families
Mara Braunfeld, Director of the Bert and Sandra Wasserman Center for Family Life
1 - Decorate!
Working as a family to prepare your home for a holiday can help build excitement and anticipation for family members of all ages. When it comes to decorations, hang up old favorites or create new ones together to help your home embody a festive and celebratory feeling. Some ideas: Make dreidel collages out of recycled materials; create block/Lego/Magna-Tile menorahs; use window markers to create Chanukah designs.
2 - Beeswax and Candle Art! (ideas from Miriam Leviton, Director of Arts Education)
Colorful beeswax sheets are available at craft stores, and make amazing and beautiful materials for printmaking. Since Chanukah is about light and candles, children can use the materials in imaginative ways that will make beautiful artwork or great thank-you cards for any gifts they may receive! Cover beeswax sheets with paint, then stamp beeswax paint-side-down onto cardstock or any other paper. Children can then draw on top of this hexagonal pattern, layer additional paint, or collage on top. Wicks in candles make great brushes! Dip string wicks in paint and have kids roll, drag, splatter, or dangle over paper.
3 - Shadow Shows!
Playing with the theme of light and with dark nights beginning earlier, grab some flashlights or lamps and create a spectacular show of shadows. Children can create characters through shadow puppets or explore their own shadows on walls.
4 - Chanukah Playlist!
There are many wonderful Chanukah songs and parodies to be found, but your family can also create their own playlist based on themes of the holiday. Work together to list songs that come to mind when you think of light, candles, gratitude, freedom, standing up for beliefs, the number 8, and more. You can also find Chanukah songs from different Jewish communities around the world to add a global dimension to your playlist.
5 - DIY Light Table!
You don't need to invest in an expensive light table for hours of fun and exploration at home; just create one yourself! Take a clear storage box with a lid (the under-the-bed sizes are great), and line the inside of the lid with white tissue paper or wax paper, secured in place with clear packing tape. Take a string of little white lights and place them inside the box with the cord dangling out one side. Snap the top on the box, plug in the lights, and voila, an instant light table. Children can explore with various translucent materials (sea glass pebbles, Magna-Tiles, etc.) on top of the box.
6 - Fun in the Kitchen!
The tastes and smells of a holiday help children create foundational memories that last a lifetime. Whip up some delicious Chanukah favorites like latkes or sufganiyot (fried jelly doughnuts). Feeling pressed for time? Some Chanukah cookie cutters with a simple sugar cookie recipe and fun decorating tools go a long way too.
7 - Sharing Gratitude!
After lighting candles each evening, go around and have family members offer thoughts of thanks and gratitude. They could be about the family, something positive that happened that day, or anything for which they are thankful.
8 - Giving to Others!
While many families may have the tradition of opening gifts on some or all nights of the holiday, designate at least one night as the opportunity to give to others in need. Before the holiday, talk as a family about what causes or organizations are most important, and find ways to donate time, resources, or support. Encouraging habits of giving, not just on Chanukah, but throughout the year, will teach crucial lessons of tzedakah (justice), gmilut chasadim (acts of loving-kindness), and kavod (respect).
Looking for ideas?
A personal training session
A cooking class
A studio arts class
Seats at a Shabbat dinner
The Community Table cookbook
A 3-month JCC Health Club membership
Tickets to an upcoming talk as part our Conversations series
If you'd like us to suggest a dollar amount that will cover any of these ideas and more, please call the JCC Box Office for more details at 646.505.5708.
Thanks, don't show me this again.