To teach about these differences to our students, who didn’t even realize that Jews celebrate Hanukkah outside of Israel, we held a school assembly throughout the day to highlight some fun facts about the holiday and American culture. As English teachers, our first and most obvious task was to teach the girls how to spell Hanukkah—this proved incredibly easy for we explained to them that there are more than 10 official ways to spell the holiday and they will, therefore, most likely never get it wrong! That is, until some of our students suggested Hanukkah began with an “A”… the “H” sound doesn’t really get pronounced for whatever reason. Side note, this also happens with words like “her” and “hair” where they come out sounding like “er” and “air!”
After hashing out the logistics of the word, we moved on to some classic English Hanukkah songs like “I have a little dreidel” and “Hanukkah oh Hanukkah.” Interestingly enough, there is a song in Hebrew for the spinning top completely different from the dreidel song. What shocked me even more was that the “Hanukkah oh Hanukkah” song originated in Hebrew (with the same tune) and was translated into English. This made the teaching process much easier as the girls already knew the tune!! If I could post videos on this blog, believe me you would be watching 10-minutes of video footage of my students performing :D
And what kind of American-Hanukkah 101 session would it be without showing an excerpt from the Rugrats Hanukkah special? Because the students already know the story of Hanukkah (albeit in Hebrew), it was very easy for them to follow along with the English since the context clues were through the roof!! One topic that was off limits since we were in a religious school was the idea of "Chrismukkah," or the famous fusion of Christmas and Hanukkah. The goal behind introducing this idea was to show how Christmas effectively shaped the Hanukkah culture in America (think presents, Hanukkah bush, etc.) The English department teachers also sat in on our assembly and we even enjoyed some jelly donuts together afterwards... the best!! Although I did not mention this in my blog, we also did a cultural activity day for Thanksgiving later in November.... these girls really haven't been exposed to these holidays so it is all that much more rewarding.
As for myself, you know I spent the first two nights of Hanukkah in Brussels. Upon coming back to Israel I went to a Hanukkah party in Tel Aviv for the third night with other MASA fellows. Fourth night I was in Jerusalem, fifth night with my Aunt in Ramat Gan. Sixth and seventh nights I was in Ra'anana and even did a day trip to Akko. Last but not least, I spent the eighth crazy night in Hod Hasharon with my cousins and rounded out the perfect Israeli Hanukkah experience filled with the 3 F's: family, friends, and food!!