Hebrew word of the week: Svivon


Dreidel, the classic children toy for Chanukah comes from the Yiddish dreidelen, “to twirl, to spin.” Svivon, its Hebrew translation, coined in the 1890s, is from the root s-v-v, “to turn” plus the suffix -on, in English, “-er” — thus “turner, spinner” (much like ’afifon, “kite,” combines fly and -er).

In spite of its association with Chanukah among the Ashkenazim, originally it was a Hindu hazard game. The four letters N-G-H-SH on the four sides of the box are of German origin; if the spinning top falls on N for Nichts, that means no loss, no gain; on G for Ganz, the winner takes all; on H for Halb, the player takes half; on Sh for Stell ein, the player returns all his pieces and loses. 

However, the Judaized game gives the letters a Hebrew-Jewish meaning: Nes Gadol Haya Sham, “A Great Miracle Was There” (in the Land of Israel). The missing link to Chanukah was provided by an Israeli song: sevivon, sov-sov-sov, Chanukah hu Hag Tov … Nes Gadol Haya Po O Top, “turn-turn-turn, Chanukah is a fun Holiday … great miracle was HERE!”

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Binghamton U. students say they’re the top dreidel spinners [VIDEO]


Jewish students at Binghamton University in upstate New York say they have documentation to prove that they broke the Guinness World Record for dreidel spinning.

Some 749 dreidels were spun simultaneously for at least 10 seconds Monday night at the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Live at Binghamton University, according to the center. Organizers of the dreidel spin say they have photos, video and other necessary documentation that will be submitted for review to the Guinness committee.

The Guinness record is 734 dreidels, set last year by the United Synagogue Youth in Philadelphia.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 27- Jan. 2: Hot Rod Chanukah, Moroccan New Years Eve


SAT | DECEMBER 27

(CHANUKAH BASH)
The week has been loaded with holiday merrymaking, but if you’ve got a drop of energy left, you’ll want to make it last all night long at the Hot Rod Chanukah Party hosted by The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division and Birthright ” target=”_blank”>http://www.birthrightisrael.com. Non-alumni may buy tickets at ibakal@alpertjcc.org. circle@circlesocal.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jclla.org.

(CHANUKAH)
Nope, the Chanukah celebrations aren’t over yet. That’s one of the great things about being Jewish, isn’t it? Instead of one night of merriment, the parties just go on and on and on… Jumping right in is the Israel division of The Jewish Federation/ Valley Alliance, which is throwing its own holiday family festival complete with a magician, festive singing, a menorah-lighting ceremony, and — old magazines? Actually, attendees are asked to bring some along to turn them into a menorah. Not to worry, there will be expert magazine-menorah-makers on hand to help with the project. Sun. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3206. sbjts@cox.net.

(WOMEN)
JConnect is no stranger to bringing L.A.’s Jewish community together, but this gathering is for women only. As part of their monthly women’s gathering series, guest speaker Tova Hinda Siegel will be discussing “A Light Unto Our Nation: Are WE Women the Guiding Light?” Siegel, a certified midwife and very active in the city’s Jewish community, is in a unique position to discuss women and their relationship to Israel. The conversation will take place over a kosher potluck brunch, so make sure to bring along your favorite dish. Sun. 11:45 a.m. Only cost is your contribution to the potluck. JConnectLA, 1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 322, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P to Michal@JConnectLA.com for the exact address of the event. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>Fuel in Studio City into a Moroccan-style lair of rich tapestries, lush cushions and sensuous belly dancers. The feast will not be limited to just your eyes: There will also be a decadent kosher Moroccan buffet by Bazilikum Caterers and Chef Sharon On, a free hookah patio with a variety of sweet flavors and a champagne toast at midnight. Sababa’s loyal DJ duo, Ziv and Titus, will be spinning ’70s, ’80s, hip-hop, dance, house and plenty of hip Israeli crowd-pleasers. Part of the proceeds from this relatively affordable NYE bash (a nod to the struggling economy) will be donated to Yad B’Yad, a nonprofit that provides services to abused children in Israel. 21 and over. Wed. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $48 (prepaid via PayPal), $58 (at the door). Club Fuel, 11608 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (310) 657-6650. ” target=”_blank”>http://geffenplayhouse.com; ” target=”_blank”>http://www.elportaltheatre.com.

FRI | JANUARY 2

(SHABBAT LECTURE)
Rabbi YY, as Yehuda Yonah Rubinstein is fondly known, is one of the most requested Jewish speakers in the United Kingdom. There, he is a regular broadcaster on national radio and television and was named one of the top five people in Britain to turn to for advice by the Independent newspaper. He has written innumerable essays and a couple of books, including “Dancing Through Time” and “That’s Life.” Jewish Learning Exchange is hosting this veteran public speaker and teacher with a gift for fusing Torah, modern-day challenges and humor at a special weekend starting tonight. Rubinstein will lead Melava Malka on Saturday night and speak on the subject of what Judaism says about dreams. Guests are asked to specify if they need sleeping accommodations and/or meals. Fri.-Sat. $36. Jewish Learning Exchange, 512 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323) 857-0923 or e-mail info@jlela.com to register and to receive a detailed schedule. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.tebh.org.

MUSIC VIDEO: Kenny Ellis — ‘Swingin’ Dreidel’


Kenny Ellis sings his hit single from his ‘Hanukkah Swings!’ album on Favored Nations Records—swingingest ‘Dreidel Song’ ever

He makes unique dreidels, and he makes them out of clay


In a gallery carved into a stone wall amid the ancient ruins of Caesarea, Eran Grebler sits at a potter’s wheel shaping clay dreidels.

Outside, tourists explore the old amphitheater, temple and residential quarters of this Israeli city built by King Herod the Great in 30 B.C.E. Caesarea was once the Roman capital of Palestine, the place where the Romans tortured to death Rabbi Akiva. The site of his martyrdom has become one of Israel’s national parks.

Nearby, behind glass doors, Grebler, 47, does what he has been doing for 25 years: He makes elaborate, innovative ceramic dreidels for a living.

“I’m the only one in the world who lives all year for dreidels,” he says.

Grebler’s dreidels are not your typical spinning tops. They don’t have four sides, and they’re not necessarily for Chanukah. Some are round, some are square or fashioned after the Star of David. Others are shaped like a mobile phone, an artist’s palette, even a football field.

All the dreidels are positioned on a circular base. The base has a marker on it, some bit of color or design in one spot. When you spin the dreidel atop the base, whichever letter stops at the marker is the letter you’ve spun.

Some of the dreidels look like carousels, with ceramic spheres dangling off a post that emanates from the base. You spin the post, and the spheres fly into the air.

These dreidels do not use the game’s traditional Hebrew letters. The “Blessing Dreidel,” for instance, has spheres reading “love,” “happiness,” “health,” “joy,” “luck” and “success.” Spin the dreidel, and you get a blessing.

The “Gentleman’s Dreidel” offers men ideas about what to say to women: “I called just to hear your voice,” “I missed you a lot,” “I’m here for you,” “I love you,” etc. This is the one Grebler says he plays with at home.

There are also dreidels that assign household chores (take out the garbage, fold the laundry, wash the floor….), suggest a place to visit (Paris, London, Croatia….), give investment advice (stocks, bonds, short-term loans….) and offer suggestions on how to spend an afternoon (movies, museum, shopping at the mall….).

The dreidels range in price from $7 to $70, and Grebler says he sells thousands a year all over the world. About 500 are on display in his Caesarea gallery, which he calls The Draydel House.

Spinning tops and ceramics have captivated Grebler since he was a child. His father, a mechanical engineer, gave Grebler a water pump from an old Ford engine as his first toy.
“It spun like a dreidel,” Grebler recalls.

The grown man with salt-and-pepper hair reaches for a framed black-and-white photograph on the gallery wall and takes it off the hook. The photograph shows Grebler at 6 years old, standing near a table lined with ceramic urns. There’s a caption in Hebrew printed alongside the picture. Grebler translates: “You can’t say the kid didn’t make his dream come true.”

Grebler’s father liked to take his son to galleries, where the young boy would revel in art. As a high school student, Grebler studied ceramics under a veteran Israeli artist, a friend of his father’s. After the army, Grebler started making a range of Judaica artworks. But people liked his dreidels best. So he made more of them. When he had children, he made dreidels for them.

“I wanted to make people happy,” Grebler says.

His children, now 12, 16 and 18, continue to give him inspiration and sometimes suggestions about what to make. One of his daughters gave him the idea to craft a dreidel shaped as a dancer.

Grebler, who wears an easy smile, said he feels like a kid. A sign in his store says, “Please Spin!”

“Most shops write, ‘Please don’t touch,'” Grebler says. “I want people to touch.”

Sometimes, he works at a wheel in a corner of the gallery, which he opened in 2002.

Usually, he works from a studio in Pardes Hana, near his home.

It takes him two or three weeks to make a batch of dreidels. First, he spins the clay on the wheel. Then, he burns the clay, glazes it and paints on gold and writing. He throws the clay into the fire again, adds more paint and sticks it back in the kiln.

The ceramic dreidels are delicate, so Grebler puts all his on circular bases. A four-sided ceramic dreidel would break when spun, he says.

On the wall behind the gallery’s sales counter is a list of words in different languages for “spinning top” — from “dreidel” or “draydel” in Yiddish to “toupie” in French, “kreisel” in German, “trompo” in Spanish, “trotolla” in Italian and “baczek” in Polish.

The history of the dreidel, too, is written on the wall in Hebrew. The game of dreidel was played in Sardinia at the beginning of the Roman period, the text says. Eventually, Europeans, and especially Germans, adopted it. The Jews learned to play dreidel from the Germans, so the story goes.

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jews began playing dreidel in the early Middle Ages. They labeled the dreidel’s four sides with the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, he and shin, standing for the Yiddish words nimm, gib, halb and shtell, meaning “take,” “give,” “half” and “put.”

Later, the letters were interpreted to mean “nes gadol hayah sham,” (“a great miracle happened there)”. The Jews of modern Israel changed sham to po, so the letters would spell out “a great miracle happened here.”

For Grebler, the maxim could not hit closer to home. A miracle did happen here. “It was my dream to open a place where people can play,” he says.

To see more of Grebler’s dreidels, go to www.draydelhouse.com

Take These for a Spin

Dreidels come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Here are a few of the most creative ones at Gallery Judaica on Westwood Boulevard.

The Greatest Game


We sat at my sister-in-law’s kitchen table, 11 of us from three generations of my husband’s family, absorbed by a wicked game of dreidel on the fifth night of Chanukah, howling with abandon and anticipation at each seemingly endless spin. My 10-year-old daughter, the youngest present, was killing us all, amassing huge quantities of chocolate gold.

But this typically Jewish gathering was really something quite different than what it might have seemed at first glance. We were in one of the least Jewish places in America, in a farmhouse on the icy plains of eastern Iowa. Twinkling Christmas lights lit up the front of the house, and a tree burned bright in the living room just beyond where we were sitting. The table was laden with a mix of beautifully crafted traditional holiday cookies, and my daughter was taking more than her share of the green wreath-shaped ones. The people, too, were not what you might expect — everyone other than my husband, my daughter and I was a devout Catholic.

This year my nuclear family — the three of us — had gathered together with my husband’s family, and we were taking advantage of the odd coincidence that overlapped Chanukah so directly with Christmas. It was the first time my husband’s family had ever seen a dreidel. Before this night they’d never tasted a latke, let alone a piece of gelt.

The Jewish rituals are now familiar to Richard, my husband of 15 years, although he sometimes still feels a bit new to all of it. He takes nothing for granted in his dreidel game, now that he’s gotten pretty comfortable with the Hebrew letters and their designations. As we lit the candles on the menorah we’d brought with us from Los Angeles, he was the one to translate the prayers for his family — taking care to explain the meaning behind the Hebrew words we’d chanted, because he especially knows what it means to not understand.

Richard is in the process of converting to Judaism, a step that’s been a long time coming, although he long ago moved away from the heartfelt faith his heartland family sought to instill in him. It’s been a big move; he knew of only one or two Jewish families growing up in this region, where the most popular museum features John Deere farm equipment, and a local chain of ice cream shops is a main attraction. As we laughed through this Chanukah evening together, it was easy to understand how much he respects and loves his German, Scots-Irish family, who have stayed close to their Midwestern roots, even though they no longer till the land. His decision to change religions has been a very careful and prolonged one.

It wasn’t easy for me to enter his family, either; at least the anticipation of it was intimidating for this East Coast-born, deeply ethnic Jew. In 1989, I made my first trip to the Quad Cities, along the banks of the Mississippi at the border of Illinois and Iowa, and I was scared. I feared that Richard’s family would see me as an alien being — an aspiring intellectual, art-loving liberal. These were interests, I presumed, that they knew little about.

I was afraid they’d reject me because Catholicism is so important in their lives; it wasn’t just of passing interest that I was not one of them. Just as we Jews hope to preserve the sanctity of a Jewish family, they believe in their traditions and the need to perpetuate those beliefs. Mary, the oldest of my husband’s three sisters, is a nun; one of his brother’s sons studied to be a priest for a while. I’d had Catholic friends my whole life, but Richard’s family was somehow more Catholic, more devout and more lovingly committed to their faith than any I’d ever known.

Yet from our first hug when they met me in the airport on that first trip, they’ve never let me down. That embrace was the first of many, and I can no longer even imagine them rejecting our ways. Their early misgivings about their Richard marrying a Jew — and even about his gradually becoming a Jew — have not stopped them from accepting us for who we are. Over time, my mother-in-law has let us know that she is concerned first that we have faith in God. As for their granddaughter, she brings home stories not from a Catholic school, nor a public school, but a Jewish day school. Both of Richard’s parents joyously take in these tales like the doting grandparents they are; and they have come to Los Angeles to visit her and see her school performances.

So there we were in Iowa, playing with a dreidel because Christmas and Chanukah coincided and because this family of Catholics is always ready for a good game. As Richard patiently taught them the Hebrew letters on the dreidel — it took some effort, as those little squiggles all seemed to baffle them — I cooked the latkes with the help of my two 4H-proud nephews. Good food is a universal language. My mother-in-law knows this, too. As dinner was being prepared, she surprised me with a kugel she’d made, inspired by a recipe she’d gotten years ago from my father’s mother.

As the game ended, Mary picked up a couple of pieces of gelt to take home to her monastery. There was a picture of a menorah on the coin, and she wanted to share it with the sisters.

 

Spectator – Once Upon a Menorah


A three-foot dancing dreidel and a visiting Holocaust survivor recall the ageless tales from a fresh perspective, when PBS station KCET airs “Chanukah Stories” on Dec. 24 and 25.

The heroes of the animated film, “Moishe’s Miracle,” is 8-year-old Zackary Maccabee, known as Zak Mak to his friends and television viewers, and a 50th generation descendent of Judah Maccabeus.

As Zak impatiently awaits the first night of the Festival of Lights, his trusty dreidel transports him to a snowy Jewish shtetl of the 1800s.

There, Moishe the Milkman ekes out a meager living and, to the frustration of his wife, Baile, gives out free milk to neighbors who have fallen on hard times.

Comes Chanukah time and Moishe sadly realizes that he doesn’t have enough money to buy all the ingredients for latkes. But just in time appears a magic pan, which self-produces limitless amounts of the savory dish. The one provision that comes with the gift is that no one but Moishe can ever use the pan.

As the latkes pop off the pan, Moishe invites the whole shtetl for a feast. But while he is away, Baile can’t resist trying out the pan and the heaven-sent latkes disappear forever.

Narrated by Bob Saget, “Moishe’s Miracle” is followed by “The Tie Man’s Miracle,” during which Zak Mac, now back in the 1960s, is waiting for his father’s return to celebrate the last night of Chanukah.

Suddenly, an elderly man, Mr. Hoffman, appears at the door, selling neckties. He resists the invitations of the mother and children to spend the evening with them, but finally gives in to the entreaties of the father.

Asked by Zak why he doesn’t spend Chanukah with his family, Mr. Hoffman haltingly relates the story of his wife and children, who were killed during the Holocaust.

Before taking an abrupt leave, Mr. Hoffman tells Zak that if on the last night of Chanukah all nine candles go out at exactly the same time, his wish will come true.

Deeply affected by the sad visitor, Zak closely watches the menorah on future Chanukahs, hoping that the tie salesman might return one more time. Jami Gertz, star of the CBS comedy, “Still Standing,” narrates the story.

“Chanukah Stories” is the latest in the series of children-oriented cultural and religious programs by JTN Productions of the Jewish Television Network, headed by Jay Sanderson.

KCET airs “Chanukah Stories” on Dec. 24 at 10:30 a.m. and Dec. 25 at 8 a.m. Check listings for other PBS stations in Southern California for air dates and times.

 

Through God’s Eyes


 

We call it the Festival of Lights, but Chanukah starts in a very dark place.

It begins with two stories, each very serious. One

tells of a severely outnumbered band of Jews who fought a powerful enemy for religious freedom.

And there’s the other, even more painful tale of Jew vs. Jew, of the Macabees struggling with widespread Jewish assimilation into the culture and religion of that enemy.

In many ways, Chanukah represents the most painful aspects of Jewish history in one full account: the Jewish community facing threats both from outside and within.

The tales are so painful, in fact, that thinking about them can be depressing. And what’s worse, many aspects of Chanukah — bloody battles, inner fighting, treacherous choices between life and death — have been reenacted over and over again, throughout the centuries.

But despite the seriousness, despite the painful, dark history of Chanukah, we spend eight days in lightness. We play, we sing, we eat — we remember the tales of the Maccabees with latkes, gelt, songs and games. For us, Chanukah is a party — bright, sweet, joyous. It’s serious, but we’re playful.

The stories — dark and sobering — are recalled with light and celebration. How do the bloody battles of Chanukah translate into a ritual of fun?

The answer can found in the dreidel.

The Hebrew letters on each side of the toy — nun, gimmel, heh, and shin — famously serve as an acronym for neis gadol haya sham — “a great miracle happened there” — a reference to the miraculous eight-day staying power of the little bit of oil lighting the menorah in the Holy Temple when it was re-taken by the Maccabees.

Like Chanukah, the dreidel is a combination of intensity and lightheartedness. Historically, it was initially adopted by Jews not as a game or toy but as a front, a ruse used by persecuted Torah scholars who were forbidden by non-Jewish authorities from study. Pretending to play a game, rabbis would actually teach their students Torah, enabling the traditions to be passed to each new generation.

How fitting then to have those same toys in the hands of happy, free Jewish children today, spinning the dreidel as a simple game after learning Torah in security. The dreidel represents that same relationship between terror and confidence, between threats and joy, darkness and light.

The spinning top is actually even more than just a reminder of persecutions past and more than a simple game for happy children. The Jewish mystical tradition teaches that the four letters on the sides of the dreidel have a wholly different significance. The nun is for neshama (soul); the gimmel is for guf (body); the shin is actually a sin, for sechel (mind); and the heh is for ha-kol (everything).

The playful little toy is a miniature but complete person: body, mind and soul — everything wrapped up together. And like the dreidel, we are also a combination of the playful and the serious. On one hand, we are light and fun and lively. But on the other hand, we spin out of control. We live in chaos.

A human being is a dreidel: busy, moving. We reach near vertigo, tilting and spinning until at last we finally drop.

Like the Chanukah tales, our personal narratives are marked by difficult choices and numerous battles, both external and internal. A human being is a dreidel: spinning and falling, spinning and falling. Yet we come up, again and again. How can that be?

Because, as the dreidel tells us: neis gadol haya sham. Great miracles happen, not just in ancient times but now, constantly, for us every single day. We spin and fall, but thanks to God’s miracles, we stand up to try again — as a nation and as individuals. That’s serious stuff. But it’s also worth celebrating.

This column originally appeared in The Journal on Dec. 14, 2001.

Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer is instructor of Bible and liturgy at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism and creator of Ozreinu, a spiritual support group for special-needs families.

 

Chanukah Rights


Growing up, I was one of the few children that did not
receive Chanukah presents. My family gave gelt, the money that children
traditionally receive on the holiday while gambling over the
game of dreidel, the spinning top.

My parents wanted to make the holiday as different from that
green and red one that sometimes falls at the same time. An easier task then, I
suppose, than now.

But isn’t that what the Festival of Lights is really about —
making sure we stay different? The Israelites resisted Hellenization; can the
American Jews resist Christmasization?

 From Adam Sandler to “The Hebrew Hammer” to the ultimate
public display of Chanukah — Chabad’s giant chocolate menorah at Fashion Island
in Newport Beach — we Jews have managed to procure equal Chanukah rights for
all, thank you very much. Maybe that’s not a good thing.

One nice thing about my time living in Israel — aside from
avoiding overly sentimental holiday songs and films — was the fact that most
people I knew didn’t have a lot of money. Most of us couldn’t afford to buy
everything we ever wanted, so we stuck to buying the things that we needed,
like toilet paper and shoes.

As an anonymous Yiddish author wrote in “A Treasury of
Jewish Humor,” which was compiled in 1967: “To have money is not so ai-ai-ai!
But not to have money is oy-oy-oy!”

There is no going back in time to when we were less
affluent, to when we gave a few pennies for gelt instead of gifts, to when
Chanukah and Christmas weren’t often synonymous for “the holidays.” And that’s
a good thing in many ways, I suppose.

But can’t we Jews bring something more to the holiday table?
Don’t we have more to offer this season than a giant chocolate menorah and
eight gifts instead of one?

In Judaism and in life, the world presents two inherent forces
competing for every person’s soul: gashmiyut (materialism) and ruchaniyut
(spirituality). We don’t shun one in service for the other; the tradition
understands that the material world has a place, too: our spiritual leaders
don’t take vows of celibacy — they marry.

A person who chooses to be a nazir (an ascetic) can only do
so for 30 days. The Jewish tradition teaches that wealth should be used to
enhance spirituality: avodah b’gashmiyut. Worship through materialism.

This week, as Chanukah and Christmas collide, instead of
unrealistically calling for a moratorium on spending (who would listen?),
perhaps we should look to our tradition to see how we can enhance our values
through materialism: avodah b’gashmiyut.

We can use our spiritual — and hopefully, emotional — wealth
to give to others: to donate our time, our services, our money.

But we need to do more than co-opt the “holiday spirit,”
that somewhat superficial niceness that descends on everyone, for say, two
weeks out of the year. Chanukah shouldn’t be completely Americanized, neutered
of all spiritual meaning, with candles instead of a tree, latkes instead of
fruitcake (as if that’s a fair choice).

The Festival of Lights, of course, is about a battle that
was won by the few against the many and the miracle of the Temple menorah’s oil
that lasted eight days instead of one.

Perhaps this year, some will draw a parallel of the
Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks to the United States’ capture of Saddam
Hussein.

To me, Chanukah is about the survival of the Jewish people.
How do we do it? Julie Gruenbaum Fax writes this week about how some movements
are looking to conversion as a route to survival. Many stories in this issue
testify to the ways we continue: from Tom Teicholtz’s article on the revival of
Yiddish (The “always dying but never dead” language) to Rabbi Eli Hecht’s tale
of his feisty bubbie’s stolen menorah. Survival is apparent, too, in our own
community, where the Orthodox Union held its annual West Coast Convention, just
days after the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra gave a masterful performance at
Disney Hall and the next day went to Milken High School to visit with student
musicians.

What does it take to survive? Strength, courage and, yes,
even adaptability and change. If the victory against the Greeks was about
withstanding assimilation and taking on foreign ways, perhaps this Chanukah we
remember that some of our greatest gifts come, already unwrapped, from our very
own tradition.  

A Great Party Happened Here


"Entertaining is a lot like gardening," Linda Burghardt said. "You can’t make mistakes."

In other words, no matter what you do, it’s OK.

Just as each combination of flowers produces a different garden, each approach to party planning results in a unique gathering. Through these suggestions, hosts can reinvent Chanukah parties or weave in new ideas with established traditions:

1. Make a guest list of family and friends who light up your life. Celebrating the holiday with friends is fun for people with small families.

2. Using construction paper, show children how to cut out dreidels or candles and create one-of-a-kind invitations by filling in the time and date.

3. If you want to do something fancier, buy plastic dreidels with removable tops and put a note inside each one, explaining the party details.

4. Make a centerpiece by turning a large cardboard box into a dreidel and letting children decorate it. Fill the dreidel with party favors wrapped in blue and white paper, taping mesh bags of Chanukah gelt or real money on top. Attach long ribbons, so it’s easy for children to pull party favors from the centerpiece.

5. If you enjoy grab bags purchase them, make gifts yourself or ask guests to bring something to exchange. Organize two sets of grab bags — one for children and one for adults. Set a price range to ensure fairness.

6. Plan a manageable menu and prepare as many dishes ahead of time as possible.

7. Experiment by making latkes out of sweet potatoes or vegetables such as carrots, zucchini or turnips.

8. For extra-crunchy results, drain latkes on brown paper bags from grocery stores rather than on paper towels.

9. Make Chanukah gelt by melting chocolate and spooning it into rounds on aluminum foil coated with a no-stick spray. When they’ve cooled, wrap individually in silver or gold foil.

10. Create a lovely ceremony by asking guests to bring menorahs from home. Provide candles in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, including some from Israel.

11. Place menorahs around the dining room table at the appropriate guest’s place. Say the blessing and light the shamashim (the central candle) together, followed by the other candles. Prepare to be dazzled.

12. Explain each step for guests who’ve grown fuzzy about Jewish customs or who are learning about Judaism for the first time.

13. After dinner, read Isaac Beshevis Singer’s delightful "Zlatch the Goat" from his collection of stories by the same name. Young and old alike will be entertained by this charming tale.

14. Sing songs such as "Rock of Ages." Remember to copy song sheets and distribute to guests, so they can join in.

15. Before the party, take a long bath. Allow 45 minutes to relax. Remember your role as host is to extend warmth and welcome people into your home. Forget perfectionism — it has no place at Chanukah.


From “Jewish Holiday Traditions” by Linda Burghardt (Citadel Press, 2001).

Eight Crazy Delights


1. No Nostalgia for Waxing

This Chanukah, there is no more scraping, boiling water, melting with a hair dryer or freezing to remove wax drippings from your menorah because Wax-Off prevents wax from sticking to any candle-holder surface. Visit www.wax-off.net or call (800) 334-9964 for more information.

2. Fiddler-mania!

Question: What would your Chanukah be without your hand-painted “Fiddler on the Roof” Figurine Music Box ($45), “Fiddler” Chess Set ($300), “Fiddler” Chip n’ Dip Set ($50), “Fiddler” Teapot ($36) and set of “Fiddler” Shmear Spreaders ($45)? And the answer: Much less expensive. (www.jewishsource.com ).

3. A Big Blow to the Jewish People

Hebrew Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum Box of 100 ($10.95). If you can’t read Hebrew, don’t sweat it — the comic strips are probably funnier when you don’t understand the gags (www.jewishsource.com).

4. Rabbi Said Knock You Out!

Boxing Rabbi Puppet ($9.50). Finally, a way to one-up your neighbor’s Fighting Nun Puppet (www.mcphee.com ).

5. Ark for Ark’s Sake

The Ark of the Covenant ($11.95). Indiana Jones nearly lost his life searching for his. So why not pick one up for yourself and see what all the hubbub is about? (www.mcphee.com ).

6. Giving You Plaque

Gefilte Fish Plaque ($5.95). A Jesus plate parody for your car. In all honesty, this plaque probably tastes better than the fish that inspired it. Unclear whether it comes packed in jelly. (www.mcphee.com ).

7. When the Golem

Gets Tough…

Share with your children the legend of the Prague protector with a copy of “Golem,” an award-winning children’s book by David Wisniewski. (Clarion Books, $17) (www.amazon.com ).

9. Winnie the Jew

Winnie the Pooh in a yarmulke with dreidel in hand. Nobody saw this one coming, but then again, the lovable bear perhaps makes a more convincing Jew than a boy named Christopher Robin. ($8.50). (The Disney Store. For locations visit disney.store.go.com ).



Bonus Shamash Gift: The Jewish Version of The Spinners?

The Draydelettes, a chorus line of Chanukah tops created by designer Susan Fischer Weis, grace a light set ($19.95) and mug ($7.95) (www.jewishsource.com ).

Happy Chanukah!


Happy Chanukah! It’s time for presents, gelt, latkes and sufganiyot (doughnuts).
It’s also time to light candles. Here is a thought for Chanukah: a little bit of oil produced eight days of light.
Today, we should think of other ways to make energy last longer. If we can conserve electricity, our power plants won’t
have to burn so much fuel and there be less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making for cleaner, fresher air!

Unscramble the letters in the bulbs to find out what to do to save electricity.

Project: Discover new ways for your family to save energy and money.

  • 1. Count the number of light bulbs in your house.
  • 2. Count doors and windows — are any open and letting cold air in?
  • 3. Find your thermostat. Lookat the temperature. Ask your parents’ permission to lower it by 3 degrees.
  • 4. Ask your Mom to show you where she keeps candles.
  • 5. Turn off any electric appliance that is on but not being used — like lights, radios and televisions.
  • 6. Help your Mom and Dad make latkes.
  • 7. Set the table with lots of candles.
  • 8. Have a candlelight dinner to save on electricity. Talk about what you found.

A Modern Chanukah Miracle

Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “A Great Miracle Happened There.” These four letters are written on the dreidel, the spinning top game we play after lighting candles. Maybe you can duplicate the Chanukah miracle by making lights last longer in your house.