Rabbi Bryna Milikow of the Etz Hayim Synagogue in Derry admits Hanukkah isn’t the most religious holiday on the Jewish calendar, but there is one aspect about the holiday which excites her every year.
“I love watching the kids get excited,” Milikow said. “They love the holiday and enjoy learning about it each year.”
Hanukkah began at sundown Dec. 8 and will continue for eight nights until the final candle of the menorah is lighted on Dec. 16.
The temple held a large celebration for children Tuesday night. They played dreidel games, ate latkes and did arts and crafts projects to signify the holidays.
“It’s a wonderful holiday,” Milikow said. “It may not be as important as some of the other holidays we celebrate, but it is fun.”
Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians many years ago. The holiday lasts for eight nights to symbolize how long oil burned in a temple in Jerusalem during the battle.
In Londonderry, students at Matthew Thornton School learned about the holiday in class last week.
“We have several activities and lessons for many different holidays around the world,” second-grade teacher Michael Quimby said .
Quimby read students a children’s book on the holiday and demonstrated how the menorah is lighted each night. The students then made paper menorahs and each child put a word on each of the candles which meant something to them.
Quimby doesn’t have any Jewish children in his class this year, but said students always enjoy learning holidays they don’t get to celebrate.
“It’s always fun for them to learn about different cultures and how they celebrate their holidays,” Quimby said. “We compare and contrast them with each other and see what many different cultures have in common.”
Second-grader Riley Burns marveled at the length of the holiday.
“Eight days of presents sounds fun,” she said.
Quimby also played the dreidel game with the students and taught them about latkes, which Jews eat during the holiday.
Milikow said while Hanukkah is not generally a focus on the curriculum at the school, students have been taught songs and are performing skits based on the story of Hanukkah.