Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Check out this story from the newspaper today. Your legacy is great and so are your classmates. There is also a good photo of Jack that almost went with the story. That would have been too good.

A Holiday of Getting and Giving

The Eight Days of Hanukah Bring Jewish Families Together for Food and Faith

Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page C16

In a country that goes a little crazy with gift-giving every winter -- and for kids who love gift-getting -- the eight-day festival called Hanukah might sound like heaven.

But raking in loot is definitely not what Hanukah is all about, students at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation's Capital explained last week as they were preparing for Hanukah, which began last night.

Nearly every kid in the Northwest Washington school was singing Hanukah songs in Hebrew or doing special crafts, classwork or service projects for the holiday.

"I see some kids who think, 'Oh, we have eight days of presents and the kids who celebrate Christmas only get one day,' " said Daniel Royston, 11, a sixth-grader.

What really makes kids look forward to Hanukah every year is something a lot bigger and more complicated than that, said classmate Hannah Cohen, also 11. Hannah said she likes the after-dark Hanukah ritual and the way it brings her family together.

"At night, we go home and light the candles and sing the brachot [blessings] and get dreidels [special spinning tops] and play the dreidel game and get presents," she said. "But it's not about the presents, it's being with your family."

It's not that these students don't like getting Hanukah goodies. Joanna Kramer, 9, liked everything she has gotten in previous years: "a camera, some cool tape that comes with designs, clothes for my doll, some chocolate."

As with many holidays, Hanukah is a time to feast on special foods.

"You get to eat these really big doughnuts!" said David Klein, 11, of Rockville. He was talking about the sufganiyot, dough fried in oil. At Hanukah, people also eat another food cooked in oil, latkes, a kind of potato pancake.

But they have lots of reminders, at their school, to think about the holiday's deeper meaning (see story at left) and to think about helping others. Their teachers tell them to try going without a Hanukah present on at least one night and give something to a needy family.

A couple of years ago, at Hanukah time, first-grader Henry Strongin Goldberg died of a rare illness. Since then, the students remember him by donating action figures (Henry loved them) to homeless shelters and children's hospitals. "Henry's Box" outside the school office is already filled to the brim with toys: Batman, Power Rangers, Rescue Heroes.

As Joanna says, at Hanukah "you get gifts but you also give gifts."

-- Fern Shen

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