Connections is a social and recreational community at JCC Manhattan of young adults with intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities. The program, run through the Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special needs at the JCC, fosters independence through social, cultural, and educational opportunities, while encouraging participants to make and deepen friendships with one another.
A few years ago, Hannah Badain, the Connections program coordinator, approached me with a request from participants. They knew they were often on the receiving end of community services, and were eager to participate in social justice work themselves. Chanukah was coming, so we started with something that almost everyone had in common—a love of chocolate, and looking forward to the chocolate Chanukah gelt that was in store. We talked about how we feel when we eat and share delicious treats—happy, excited, grateful. Together, we studied how much of the commercially available chocolate is produced. More than half of the world’s cocoa is grown in the Ivory Coast, where young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms with no pay and in unsafe conditions. We talked about how it felt to think that our delicious chocolate was made under such circumstances—sad, angry, worried.
Connections and the Center for Jewish Living embarked on our first-ever joint project: providing our JCC community with fair trade Chanukah gelt. Participants package "guilt-free gelt," made by a Fair Trade cooperative in Ghana, where Fair Trade standards prohibit the use of child labor. The organization is democratically run, and the children of cooperative members attend school rather than work in the fields. Thanks to Connections and our partnership with T’ruah and Fair Trade Judaica, guilt-free gelt is distributed at most JCC Chanukah programs. It’s also available for purchase at the Shabbat Shop, an Adaptations social enterprise.
The Talmud teaches that we don’t rely on miracles (Kiddushin 39b); we must take action ourselves to bring about redemption. On Chanukah, we celebrate the miracles of ages past, and we strengthen our resolve to make miracles happen today. A tiny flask of oil illuminated the Temple for eight days. On Chanukah we can be mindful about how light does not shine in only one direction. A tiny source of light can illuminate our whole community. Sharing Fair Trade Chanukah gelt moves us a step closer toward ending labor abuses and modern slavery around the world, reflecting and expanding that light.
May your Chanukah be filled with light. Chag Urim Sameach.
Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen
Director of The Center for Jewish Living
Join us every night of Chanukah at 5:15 pm (Friday at 4 pm) for candle lighting and a pop up Chanukah party. Gather with the JCC community and enjoy food, music, and more.
Our gift to you. Free programs such as this are made possible by the generosity of donors to JCC Manhattan.
Sun, Dec 6: Wine tasting and jazz. Enjoy the music of Israeli jazz guitarist Yotam Silberstein and a seasonal wine tasting.
Mon, Dec 7: Culinary demonstration. Come enjoy latke accouterments including flavored apple sauces!
Tue, Dec 8: Jewelry making, Join members of Boost! to make Jewelry for the holiday gift drive.
Wed, Dec 9: Chant Circle and Chanukah singing with Rabbi Shoshana Mitrani Knapp.
Thu, Dec 10: Health + Wellness at Work, Chair yoga and work wellness tips with Senior Director of Health & Wellness Programming Caroline Kohles
Fri, Dec 11: Join us for Candle lighting and a taste of Shabbat Shabbang Jr. at 4 pm. Register for Shabbat Shabbang Jr. here
Sat, Dec 12: Post R&R Havdalah, Candle lighting and sing along with Paul Wolf.
Sun, Dec 13: Join the Heschel Notes, a choir of parents, staff and administrators from the Abraham Joshua Heschel School for a holiday concert and candle-lighting the final night of chanukah. Chanukah snacks served.
As we reflect on gratitude this Chanukah, let us make social justice, tzedakah, and volunteerism a part of our celebration.
This Chanukah, share your commitment to social justice with students, friends and family by using a variety of resources provided by American Jewish World Service.
T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is proud to partner with Fair Trade Judaica to bring you child-labor free fair trade Chanukah gelt.
Fair Trade Chanukah gelt will also be available for sale in the JCC lobby on Thursdays and Fridays through the Shabbat Shop.
The Shabbat Shop is an Adaptations Social Enterprise. The shop is staffed by Adaptations participants and all proceeds support the Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs at JCC Manhattan. Stop by to view the full line of products, including Fair Trade Chanukah gelt.
Latkes Four Ways
From The Community Table cookbook
Photo by John Tavares
For more on the book visit:
Body and Soul, Heart and Mind:
Jewish Meditation and Movement
Sun, Dec 6, 10:30 am–1 pm
Annual 20s + 30s Chanukah Party
Mon, Dec 7, 7:30–10 pm
Latke-Making with Best-Selling Cookbook
Author Anya von Bremzen
Mon, Dec 7, 7:30–9:30 pm
Lighter Chanukah Treats
Tue, Dec 8, 7–9:30 pm
Family Life Chanukah Lobby Celebration
Wed, Dec 9, 10:30–11:30 am
Seniors Chanukah Candle Lighting Party
Wed, Dec 9, 3:30–5pm
Wed, Dec 9, 7:15–8:30 pm
Elegant Vegetarian Chanukah:
Pancakes, Latkes + Risotto Cakes
Wed, Dec 9, 7–9:30 pm
Eight Treats for Eight Lights for 20s and 30s
Thu, Dec 10, 7–9:30 pm
Songs of Sacred Time: Chanukah Concert
Jewish Journeys in Music and Poetry
Thu, Dec 10, 7:30 pm
40s, 50s + 60s Chanukah Celebration
Thu, Dec 10, 7–9 pm
Shabbat Shabbang Jr.
Fri, Dec 11
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 re-light its menorah, the Maccabees found only one small jug of oil, enough to last one day but not for 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 art activities for families
Created by Miriam Leviton, Director of Arts Education at JCC Manhattan
"The Gratitude Book"
Before the holiday starts, take time as a family to make a list of 8 things that your child is grateful for. On each night, after candle lighting, children can draw a picture of that thing they are grateful for. *If they cannot yet write, have them dictate what it is and write it, so you can always remember. Then hang up all 8 of them next to one another as the holiday goes on, and at the end, you can combine all of them into a "gratitude book" for the holiday that year.
Beeswax and Candle art
Colorful beeswax sheets are available at craft stores, and make amazing and beautiful materials for printmaking. Chanukah is so much about light, and candles, and 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 paper. Children can then draw on top of this hexagonal pattern, layer additional paint, or collage on top!
Wicks make great brushes! Dip string wicks in paint and have kids roll, drag, splatter, dangle, over paper!
Dreidel Spin Art
(This is very messy) Dip dreidels in paint and spin away!! This activity is fun, great for fine motor skills, and teaches about design and color mixing.
Exploring Light and Shadow
Even very young children love to see and play with their own shadow. Turn off lights in a room, and against a wall use flashlights, lamps, or a light projector to illuminate the wall. Have your children write a shadow play to perform, or teach them how to make shadow puppets with their hands! Light play is both fun and educational!
Giving Light to the World as a Family
Together as a family, draw pictures of things that your children and you care about. Once you have a visual sense of what is important to you, have your children pick one issue they would like to especially focus on helping with this year. Research organizations as a family that you may be able to volunteer for or donate money to.