Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’

How do you Spell (C)Hanuk(k)a(h)?

December 7, 2011

Last year around this time, I addressed the question: “How do you spell Chanukah?” (Note: This is my preferred spelling as I explained in a 12/2010 post.)  This year, I offer The LeeVees’s response to this persistent query.  Those of you who were with us for our Chanukah party in 2009 may remember The LeeVees from a CD I of holiday music I passed around.  There are links to more of their songs on the link I provided.  Hope you enjoy.


Chanukah Oh(WU) Chanukah

December 3, 2011

The bad news: The OWU Men’s Soccer screening party stole the thunder from our Chanukah party this evening.

The good news: The team is advancing to the final round of competition in the Division Three National Finals.

The other good news: Those of us who were in attendance had a great time catching up in the kitchen, making and eating some damn good latkes, and listening to some rocking tunes on Pandora’s Klezmer Conservatory Band’s holiday channel (Dr. Elias’s brother-in-law is a founding member of the KCB).


In the tradition of OWU Hillel, we read a story to mark the holiday and get us thinking about what it’s all about.  The Dog Tag Dilemma is a perfect story for Chanukah, a story about embracing one’s Jewish identity when circumstances suggest it would be easier to blend in with the crowd.  If you’re looking for a way to reconnect with the spirit of the holiday, check it out.

As we move through Chanukah, from 2011 to 2012, consider how you will rededicate yourself to Judaism, and OWUHillel.  We’ll be selecting new board members in January and we could use a few good folks to lead us.

Chanukah 2010.2: Menorah vs. Chanukiah

November 30, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the various ways people (mis)spell Chanukah.   While I have my own preference (have you figured it out yet??), I am somewhat willing to accept that other people spell it differently.  Somewhat.

The Chanukah bee that really gets in my bonnet, is when people call the candelabra we use for the holiday a Menorah rather than an Chanukiah.  Again, I’ll offer you some information and let you decide how you wish to proceed…

Exhibit A: This is a menorah.

Exhibit B: This is a Chanukiah.

Now, any kindergartener would be able to tell you these artifacts are not the same.  One has seven spots for candles, the other has nine.  The 7-stemmed Menorah was used in biblical times to symbolize the burning bush that Moses encountered in the Exodus story.  It later became a symbol of the Jewish people, one which was desecrated in the time of Judah the Maccabee.  Once the Maccabbees regained their freedom, they lit the menorah as part of their rededication of the temple.  While they had only enough oil to light the lamp for a day, by the power of the great Chanukah miracle, the fire burned for eight days.  As a result we light a special 9-branch “Menorah” called a Chanukiah this time each year as we retell the story of Judah and the magic lamp.

Chanukah 2010.1: Chanukah, Oh Hannukka(h)…

November 29, 2010

Every year around this time, I get a lot of requests for the correct spelling of Chanukah.  According to there are a dozen or more ways one might see the name for the Jewish Festival of Lights spelled.  However, my answer is always the same.

The correct spelling is in Hebrew, so all English transliterations are merely approximations.  Still, some approximations seem more correct than others.  I’ll break it down and let you make the call:

The first letter of the work is Chet, which makes a “ch” sound as in Challah (the bread).

The next letter, Nun, make a “neh” sound.  Sometimes you see one n, sometimes two.

The third letter, Vav, combined with the dot (dagesh) to its left, make an “ewe” sound, like the letter u.

The last two letters are taken together because Kaf and the vowel (kamatz) underneath it combine with the Hey at the end to make a “kah” sound.

I have my own opinion about the right way to spell Chanukah in English.  I’m sure that as you read this blog, you’ll figure out my preference.  For a pie chart on other people’s preferences, check out this link.

Festivals of Lights

December 18, 2009

Growing up in Great Neck, NY, the “quintessisal Jewish suburb” (Goldstein, 2006), December was a time for Chanukah candles, not Christmas trees.  Sure, we went to Rockefeller Center to visit the green giant holding court there.  But since most of my friends were Jewish too, so I didn’t develop the tree envy I’ve heard about from Jews who grew up in predominantly Christian communities, decorating Chanukah bushes.

Today, I live in Columbus, OH where nearly all of my family, friends, and neighbors celebrate some derivation of Christmas or Winter Solstice rather than Chanukah.  As a result, I’ve been exposed to new ways of marking this time of year – when the skeletons of trees are exposed, when cold weather keeps me indoors most of the day, and when dark evenings send me to bed early with thick, hard-covered novels.

At times I have felt uneasy participating in non-Jewish seasonal traditions, particularly those associated with Christmas.  Afterall, the Macabees fought the Syrians for the right to be different, not to blend in, right?  But, I now feel comfortable sharing the joy my friends and family feel at this time of year.  In turn, I’ve shared my Chanukah traditions and together, we’ve found light in the darkness.

Some friends helping us light our Chanukiah.

*I look forward to Mike and Sally’s late night campfire around which we howl at the moon each December 21st.

*I enjoy days off spent in the kitchen with my family – and the warm oven – baking cookies.

*I love watching my step-children show their friends how to twist the light bulbs to illuminate our electric Chanukiah.

There is one truly awesome tradition in my neighborhood, which I don’t completely understand, but I appreciate and take full advantage of.   On Christmas Eve each year, every house on the block one away from our sets out a row of milk jugs with lit candles inside along the curb.  These homemade luminaria mark nearly a half mile stretch.

I still remember the first time I happened upon them.  Elsa (our dog) and I walked down our dark street, around the corner, and there they were.  I find hope in these lights; hope that neighbors can come together to make something beautiful happen.  I think that hope has something to do with Chanukah, with our belief that miracles can happen in our time, as they did in times of old.  This season as I admire them I might say to myself, as they say in Israel, Ness Gadol Hayah Po.  A great miracle happened here.

*** Happy Chanukah ***  Happy Solstice *** Merry Christmas ***

Blessing the Chanukah Candles (w/o God)

December 15, 2009

My family is “blended.” My husband was raised Catholic but is non-practicing, and my step-kids are growing up without any formal religious structure or education. This can make sharing the Jewish holidays a challenge. The first year we lit the Chanukiah together, I struggled with how to address the blessings.

The fact that my own relationship to the concepts of God and prayer are tenuous, was a factor. Their mother’s concern that I might confuse them or try to convert them also played a role. While part of me longed to recite and share the traditional blessings, I was hesitant.

As a result, we came up with our own blessing. It is something both my husband and I feel comfortable saying and something the kids can remember. It is a blessing that we can share with our friends and family who are not Jewish so that they can participate in the ceremony of lighting Chanukah candles, without feeling obligated to say a prayer that they don’t understand or feel forced to adopt. Feel free to borrow it for your own interfaith holiday gatherings.

“Thank you for being here with me tonight,
to celebrate the miracle of the Chanukah lights.”

Thanks, But No Thanks, Mr. Hatch

December 11, 2009

Senator Orrin Hatch has graced the Jews with a Chanukah gift this year.  Hatch’s Eight Days of Chanukah is making the rounds and earning praise in The Atlantic and on NPR.  I for one have to say “Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Hatch.”  While his attempt to write an appealing Chanukah song is admirable, or just another political PR stunt, I for one find it no more entertaining than a lot of the other boring Chanukah music I’ve been listening to all my life.  And while I can understand Jeffrey Goldberg’s desire for more inspired tunes for Jews this time of year, songs that are engaging both musically and intellectually, I don’t think this is it.

The best I’ve heard in The States recently is from The Leevees Hanukkah Rocks (even if I’d argue with their spelling of the holiday).  I’d love to know if anything interesting is being done in Israel for the occasion…  If you can, please post recommendations.

The Message of Chanukah: Energy Conservation

December 4, 2009

Image: Michael Yosef Robinson

As someone who considers myself an environmentally concerned citizen, I can’t believe I’ve never made this connection before!

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Reconstructionist Shalom Center (Philadelphia, PA) offers a new moral of the Chanukah story, an environmental interpretation of the miracle of the Chanukah lights.   He suggests we consider the idea of one day’s oil serving eight days’ need, as a call for energy conservation. The ancient Jews rebuilt the temple by the light of a single wick.  I consume more energy than that in an hour – driving my car while talking on my cell phone, for example.

This Chanukah, how can we do a better job of stretching our resources?  How might we encourage others to do the same?

Gettin’ in the Spirit

December 2, 2009

From Erran Baron Cohen, brother of Sasha.
Oh Dreidel like you’ve heard it before.


December 8, 2008

December 2008

This year, Chanukah begins on December 21, the Winter Solstice, the day of the year marked by the fewest hours of daylight.  (If you follow Shabbat candle lighting times, you know this isn’t quite true, but it’s a nice idea…)  What could be more appropriate for a celebration of light?  Could there be a better time to light candles and recall the hope that kept the first Chanukah lights glowing?  A better time to sit back and take pleasure in the flickering flames?

Chanukah is also a time for rededication.  As our ancestors did for their desecrated temple, this is a time to rededicate ourselves to Judaism.  As the story of Judah and the Macabees reminds us, “throughout the ages Jews have succeeded in maintaining their beliefs against numerous attempts to forcibly change them, often at great cost to themselves.”  Today, it seems that the greatest threats to our commitment are internal, not external.  Like most Jews throughout the world today, we live in a country where we are free to practice Judaism anyway we choose.

Is it still necessary to light the candles in our windows as a public display of our Jewishness?
Must we abstain from all Christmas celebrations to avoid threats of assimilation?
What kind of rededication will you enact this year?

An article in Tikkun Magazine suggests that “Chanukah represents the triumph of idealistic non-conformity.”  Family and friends have often accused me of making choices that challenge dominant cultural norms.  It’s true, I pride myself on making choices about how I spend my time and money not based on the fashion of the times or own the expectations others have for me, but on my ever-changing sense of what is right, for me and for the world, based on my own knowledge and experiences.  This Chanukah, I see that rebellion and self-determination as Jewish dedication.

This Chanukah, I also celebrate accepting the position of Assistant Chaplain for Jewish Life at Ohio Wesleyan as a form of rededication.  The job will provide means for me to rededicate myself to the culture and traditions I was raised with; to find new meaning and purpose for them in my life today, in the Midwest.  How will you mark Chanukah this year?