SO MANY JELLY DONUTS! I think I dreamed about jelly donuts for weeks after Hanukkah this year. Every single club wanted to do a Hanukkah party, and we took everything a step further and threw a party for the 7th graders at Casey Middle School, and a Chopped Hanukkah Challenge. This means that Hanukkah lasted for at least two weeks here at BJTI, which made us wonder why everyone was so invested in a holiday that really isn’t that big of a deal to the Jews. So let’s take a minute to think about why. First, there’s the holiday season itself: as Jews, we don’t get to participate in what feels like the biggest holiday in America (Christmas), even though it’s a religious holiday in a secular country. If you’re looking for proof, grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving, but not on Christmas. On Christmas, even if we do celebrate in our homes, a lot of Jews (and non-Christians) feel invisible. So maybe our Hanukkah celebrations are a plea for visibility in a season that often makes us feel overlooked, which makes me wonder, how can we participate in the season without having to over-glorify Hanukkah?
On a day that might just be another day for us, we could be the invisible workforce that so many people really need. Already Jewish nurses, firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers volunteer to work on Christmas to give their Christian counterparts the day off, but the rest of us, and teens, can do more. We can volunteer at soup kitchens, pet shelters, bring cheer to local hospitals and nursing homes, etc. We can bring Hanukkah to our schools, but also remind them of our other holidays; we can teach about our similarities (Hanukkah and Christmas) and our differences (different sabbaths, foods, cultures, etc), and remind each other to embrace both. And we should do the same: ask your friends what their holiday traditions are and share your own. Come up with some new traditions for your friend group: a holiday food exchange (more jelly donuts), watch movies together, exchange homemade gifts, volunteer together, make New Year’s resolutions, etc.
Whatever you do, and whatever your family celebrates, please have a happy holiday season, and a happy New Year! We look forward to seeing you at club in 2019 and hearing about how you spent break!