Hilltown Families Discover Hanukkah

Hanukkah in the Hills

(c) Sienna Wildfield - Hilltown Families

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Channukahis) is the Jewish Holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days Jewish families kindle the light of a menorah by lighting one of the eight remaining candles every evening.This past Friday evening, hilltown families of mixed spiritual/religious faiths gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, to discover this ancient (over 2,000 years old) Jewish festival. When guests were asked if they knew what other holiday was celebrated on that day, one child shouted out, “CHRISTMAS!” Actually, it’s Shabbat. Two candles were lit, apple juice was served in small cups, blessings were sang and loaves of homemade Challah were passed around for children to tear off pieces of bread.

(c) Hilltown Families

homemade latkes (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Nancy Rothensberg cooked up an endless supply of delicious, homemade latkes (potato and onion pancakes), quickly devoured by everyone with sour cream or apple sauce. For perfect potato latkes, Master Chef Levana Kirschenbaum recommends keeping your recipe dry, thick, hot, steady, lean, white and fresh. Not sure if Nancy followed these guidelines, but they were the best latkes around town!

Upstairs families learn how to play dreidel. Chocolate coins (called gelt) were passed out to all players and Marla BB explained the rules and Hebrew markings on the dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, with each side corresponding to the following Hebrew words:

  • Nun (not) Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Gimel (gimme) The player takes the entire pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Hey (half) The player takes half of the pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Shin (put in) The player puts one piece of gelt the pot and the next player spins the dreidel.

Of course a few younger children had a hard time giving up some or all of their gelt, but the older kids were intent on learning the game and continued playing even after all the adults finished.

Dancing followed with a warm up to Hanukah Bamba from a new Hanukah CD made available from the PJ Library. Later, with Klezmer music playing, the Hora was taught to all. Participants gathered hands in a circle and learned steps to this Israeli folk dance.

Stories were shared at the end of the evening. Marla BB read The Eight Nights of Hanukah and Runaway Dreidel to an interactive crowd of families. Both books were also made available from the PJ Library.

2 Comments on “Hilltown Families Discover Hanukkah

  1. I am so happy everyone had such a good time! My heart is warmed & our lights keep on shining…’til next year’s party!
    (Oh, the letters on the dreidle are “Hebrew”, tho the word “gelt” I think is Yiddush, such is the mix of Hebrew & Yiddush from the Jews of Eastern European diaspora descent.)

  2. What a fabulous event you describe. We couldn’t be more delighted that materials from the PJ Library helped make it happen!

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