It is almost time to celebrate Hanukkah, and while we check to see if we have enough oil for the menorah and we have enough latkes, we at B’nai B’rith also look back on the way that Hanukkah was celebrated by our B’nai B’rith family in the past, and find that there are some great ways to bring this to our communities today. While we needed paper directions then, you can find this all on the internet now.
Celebrating Hanukkah with B’nai B’rith has been a time for socializing, enjoying entertainment and sharing traditional foods. We offered a song sheet called “Latke Ditties” including everyone’s favorite to encourage a sing-along just in case you didn’t remember all of the words to The Dreidel Song. We included the rules of the dreidel game and what each of the four letters mean. Singing together and playing dreidel is timeless.
Very often, there was a play or reading done at a meeting to mark the observance. Each of the eight candles provided an opportunity to learn something new or remind us about what we forgot about Hanukkah. We could share moments of Jewish history and the famous men and women associated with them. Who would you select to represent a candle this year? Another chance to hit the internet, or visit your Jewish library shelves for some research.
The work of B’nai B’rith has often been recognized in this way, with each candle representing a project or program that we are proud to share. In the past, each of the agencies was highlighted. Now, we focus on our program centers. We also pointed out the internationality of B’nai B’rith with information about activities that occur under the B’nai B’rith banner around the world. Check out the B’nai B’rith website at www.bnaibrith.org for information about our programs and projects worldwide.
Our Center for Community Action has turned the spotlight on the Shamash (or servant) candle. It remains ready to assist us with fulfilling the mitzvah of lighting the other candles on a menorah. So much like our B’nai B’rith leaders and volunteers who help perform the mitzvahs of community service and advocacy. Their efforts make all of these projects possible and help us increase the impact on the world as the lights are added to the menorah.
We also shared recipes of holiday foods, and asked people to share a tradition that their family had for their Hanukkah celebration. The internet is filled with Hanukkah favorites from latkes to jelly donuts. Another interesting program is a meeting to share the menorah itself. Attendees are asked to bring their favorite menorah and share a little about its history. We learned about the one their child made in Hebrew school, the Israeli artist’s creative rendition or grandpa’s menorah that was smuggled in pieces from Europe after the Holocaust.
The Center for Jewish Identity has also offered some programmatic insight about Hanukkah as it is the best example of the struggle for preserving Jewish identity. The Jews in ancient Israel were forced to abandon their practices and observances by the Syrian emperor Antiochus and were not allowed to live as Jews. Mattathias and his five sons led the Maccabees to rebel against the troops and regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem that had been desecrated by the Syrians. They wanted to restore the practice of lighting the holy menorah with ritually pure oil. They found enough for only one day and while it would require eight days for new oil to be prepared, we are told that a miracle happened and it burned for eight days until more oil was available.
Hanukkah is a holiday with specific requirements about lighting times, where the menorah should be placed, and a mandate to enjoy the time while the candles are burning. What more can we ask, but a forced respite from everyday routine and a chance to see the glow of the menorah reflected in our window?
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy Hanukkah and if you have some materials that you have created, please share it with me at email@example.com.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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