A Multi-Dimensional Look at Different Strategies for Teaching Chanukah

December 12, 2014

Source: JETS Israel


In a recent discussion on the Jewish Educator's JedLab Facebook Forum, participants actively debated different approaches to teaching Chanukah. Many posters suggested exclusive approaches that negated other possibilities. Leaving aside the question of the veracity of the traditional Chanukah narrative, JETS Israel addresses this issue by bringing a variety of themes and approaches to students and their families as the Jewish world prepares to celebrate the Festival of Lights.


Seeing in the Dark

To build on the theme of "illuminating the darkness," JETS director Smadar Goldstein has developed a lesson which personalizes the message of Chanukah. The lesson, called “Seeing in the Dark.” is geared towards inspiring students to consider how they can bring light into places where darkness prevails. Toward that end the class examines the implications of the Torah’s directive that one should “not place a stumbling block in the path of a blind man.” (Vayikra 19:14).


Students consider what it might be like to be blind, and how to use available resources to make life better for a sight-impaired person. A JETS-produced video about the Israel Center for the Blind, which trains service dogs and prepares sight-impaired people to use these guide dogs, is featured. There are also numerous interactive activities which are designed to get students thinking about how to best help blind people “see in the dark” in order to achieve independence…


Raiders of the Lost Menorah

Another JETS class looks at Chanukah from the perspective of the Menorah. The Menorah's tale encompasses three millennia, beginning in the Temple in ancient Jerusalem and concluding at the Knesset in modern Jerusalem. In this lesson, students are encouraged to examine the Biblical Menorah as it was described in the Torah, its rededication by the Maccabees, and its capture by the Romans as depicted on the Arch of Titus. After comparing the original Menorah to the Chanukiyah, the class then examines the Menorah's reemergence as the symbol of the State of Israel as well as the strong Zionist connection to the Maccabean wars.


Some of the most popular parts of the lesson involve a chance for students to “build” a menorah, using the descriptions of verses from the Chumash, and a linoboard in which students play a Menorah Magic Game.


Appreciating Miracles

In another JETS lesson, the difference between the Israeli and Diaspora draidels ("a great miracle happened there" and "a great miracle happened here") serves as a trigger to discover what the "miracle" was and where "here" is.


Students discuss the concept of "revealed" and "hidden" miracles by comparing the events of Chanukah with the rebirth of the State of Israel in modern times. Using videos and other online tools they then try to discover and appreciate hidden miracles in their own lives.


The common thread in the JETS classes is that while learning about historical and traditional aspects of Chanukah and its celebration, the students apply the messages of the holiday to contemporary times and/or to their personal lives. Using a multi-dimensional approach, participants in the JETS classes attain a stronger knowledge and appreciation of the history, traditions, and customs of Chanukah while simultaneously enhancing the meaning of the holiday in their contemporary reality.


Read more at JETS Israel.

Updated: Dec. 24, 2014