From The Rabbi's Desk

Each night we eat a different oil-laden treat. (We try to find new ones each year.) Potato latkes, of course. Then there are sweet potato latkes, doughnuts, beignets, mozzarella sticks, stuffed French toast, fried apple slices, etc.

Now that our children are older, Hanukkah gelt is given to tzedakah each night. Each year, we decide on a particular charity to support. This year we've chosen COEJL - The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. This organization deepens and broadens the Jewish community's commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism and Jewish learning. Some suggestions for 'greening' your Hanukkah are installing LED light bulbs, swapping home-made gifts, buying local potatoes for those latkes, and turning off the lights to both conserve energy and better enjoy the glow coming from your Hanukkiah. When you buy gifts, get electronic receipts where they're offered.

The tradition of giving Hanukkah gelt dates back to a long-standing East European custom of children presenting their teachers with a small sum of money at this time of year as a token of gratitude. Perhaps the connection is etymological: In Hebrew, the words "Hanukkah" (dedication) and "hinnukh" (education) come from the same root. Over time, money was also given to children to keep for themselves. According to the seventeenth century commentator Abraham Abele Gombiner, poor yeshiva students would receive a gift of money from their Jewish benefactors on Hanukkah. American chocolatiers furthered the custom by creating chocolate gelt in the 1920's.

We also have our have our annual Hanukkah Open House which features food, fun, music and candle lighting.

Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews (and even many assimilated Jews!) think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas - which, of course, it is not. Let us celebrate Hanukkah in our own unique and appropriate ways. Chag Urim Same'ach! May you have a joyous, light-filled holiday.

B'shalom u'vracha, [In peace and blessing,]
Rabbi Melody

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