This year for the first time we incorporated the Zimriyah song festival with a Hanukkah play performed by our 6th Graders. Throughout the play songs are interwoven into the play and sung by our Kindergarten to 6th Graders. The genesis of the creation of the play began with the 6th graders researching and listing all the important events and customs related to Hanukkah. From their list a play was written which began in the present at the JCCH with children finding a magical Dyadel which took them back in time. First they were taken back to the Temple after the Maccabees won the war for religious freedom and the miracle of the oil. The magical Dyraydel then took them to the time of the Mishnah (30BCD -200AD) when the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai debated how to light the Hanukkah Menorah. Bet Shammai said: On the first day one lights eight and from then on one continues to decrease, and Bet Hillel said: On the first day one lights one and from then on one continues to increase as did the miracle. To this day we do as Beit Hillel suggested.
Now back to our play. The students then traveled in time to America in the 1920’s where an American immigrant family was celebrating the holiday with Gelt and fried foods in honor of the miracle of the oil. Traditions we learned from the “old country” . A guest , a non-Jewish American neighbor, teaches the immigrant family the tradition of gift giving on Christmas which till this day influences American Jewry on Hanukkah. Finally our play concludes with the things our students liked and were grateful for related to Hanukkah, such as: the oil lasting for 8 days, the latkes and donuts, the fact that Jews all around the world are celebrating the festival of lights, the fact that the holiday celebrates freedom of religion, the debate between Beit Hillel and Beit Shamais , how the Maccabees stood up for something they believed in and were willing to fight for what they believe in even if the odds are against them, the importance of giving to others, knowing that miracles are still happening in the world and to the Jewish people and of course the presents. May we all continue to appreciate the good in our lives and the importance of little miracles happening each day.