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By Rabbi Teri Appleby.

Believe it or not, the first night of Chanukah is Wednesday, November 27!!

When we think of Chanukah, we may think of the stories of the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, the desecration and the rededication of the Temple, the miracle of a one-day supply of oil burning in the ner tamid for eight days. We may think of our family celebrations: lighting the candles in the hanukkiah, playing dreidel games with chocolate gelt, eating latkes or sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and opening presents.

But Chanukah is also about the lure of assimilation and about being different from the majority culture. The Jews in our Chanukah story were attracted to the ways of the Greeks, and there were also battles within the community about how much (or how little) to adopt Hellenistic culture.

Patti Goldin, creator of the “Holiday Workshop Series,” tells the following story about her daughter: One year at Passover, her daughter came home from university and shared the results of a dorm “bull session.” Trying to figure out why she hadn’t turned to drinking, drugs, or carefree sex, as had a number of those with whom she grew up, she had come up with only one answer: Chanukah. Her reasoning: “When we had to celebrate Chanukah while everyone else celebrated Christmas, I learned it was OK to be different. I didn’t have to do everything that everyone else did.”

At this time of the year (even when Chanukah is in November instead of December), with the onslaught of Christmas celebrations and decorations, Jewish children (and adults) feel different. Ironically, it is appropriate to feel different, because one of the underlying meanings of Chanukah is that it is the celebration of being different.

How do we help our children through this maze? Research tells us that the strongest ways to reinforce our children’s Jewish identities include participation in Jewish Youth Groups, Jewish overnight camping, and trips to Israel. Our children have so many options available to them. Please see below for details.

I hope you’ll consider one (or more) of these options for your child or grandchild.

Chanukah Sameach!

Youth Group:

We have several youth groups for our children here at Holy Blossom:

  • YEAH (Youth Educational Activities at Holy Blossom) for grades 4-6;
  • HABSTY (Holy Awesome Blossom Senior Temple Youth) for grades 9-12;
  • SHAMMAI: the Social Justice youth movement at Holy Blossom.

Contact: Lisa Isen Baumal [email protected] for YEAH & HABSTY;
Rabbi Jordan Helfman, [email protected] for SHAMMAI.

Jewish Camping:

Jewish Summer Camps offer young people the unique experience of a totally Jewish community, living out Jewish values and culture in an exciting camp setting. URJ offers a wide variety of camp options:

  • Camp George (ages 7-16). Contact: Karen Kollins [email protected];
  • Specialty Camps: such as Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY for young people interested in Social Justice; 6-Points Sports Academy (entering grades 4-11); or, new for 2014, the 6-Points Sci-Tech Academy (entering grades 4-9). Contact:
  • Special Needs Camps: Camp Chazak at both Eisner and Crane Lake Camps (for 8-14 year olds with communication and social delays); Mitzvah Corps at Kutz Camp (for 13-19 year old teens on the autism spectrum). Contact:

Youth Trips to Israel:

  • Encourage your confirmation-age child to join Debbie Spiegel for the Holy Blossom Confirmation trip during March Break. Contact: Debbie Spiegel, [email protected]
  • The URJ offers a variety of trips to Israel for teens through NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth), including the NFTY-EIE High School Semester in Israel Program. Contact: or Rabbi Jordan Helfman, [email protected]
  • Birthright Israel offers FREE ten-day trips to Israel for 18-26 year olds who have never been to Israel before. Contact:


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