by Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath –

With Chanukah rapidly approaching, I thought about numerous ways to reflect on the holiday. There’s my gift guide, which hopefully satisfies the materialistic cravings that many of us succumb to this time of year. But there’s so much more to the chag, and to this season as a whole, and it’s so important that we as educators connect our learners with the why of what we’re doing. Particularly with a late start to the holiday this year, it’s more evident than ever, at least in Northern Ohio, that we’re in a season of darkness, and it doesn’t take more than a cursory reading of the news to know that we’re in a time when it’s important to recognize and cultivate more lights in the world. So that’s the plan today – to reflect on ways that we and our learners can be bringers and builders of light, just in time for the Festival of Lights.

Eight Lights for Chanukah

  1. Light is an element that doesn’t diminish as it spreads. We’ve all seen the simple magic of a flame transferring from one candle to another and glowing just as strongly with each transfer. So for Chanukah this year, turn the glow onto others – encourage each of your learners to recognize someone else for the light that they bring to the world.

  2. With the onset of winter, one of the realities that many people face is that of seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as seasonal depression. There’s something chemical in us as human beings that craves light and warmth, which can be counterintuitive on days when we may wake up in the dark, and leave work to find that it’s once again dark outside. So take some time during the festive season of Chanukah to go outside and physically experience the light. Take a moment to refresh, however briefly.

  3. When the sky is dark and the air is cold, contrary to what I said above, it’s often our instinct to ‘nest,’ and to burrow inside. Enter hygge. This concept, which originates in Denmark, is all about cultivating a feeling of coziness during the winter months, and focusing on the pleasures of family, home, and a sense of warmth. Chanukah is the ultimate hygge holiday, and we can each bring the light inside by lighting candles, enjoying hot food, and taking pleasure in spending time with one another.

  4. Each of us operates within numerous circles. We have our families, our friends, our peers, our colleagues, and the larger networks of the communities that we exist within. It’s easy to focus on the most immediate of those circles, and to only look externally when we have some specific reason to. This Chanukah, let’s make sure our relationships go beyond transactional by bringing some light to a connection that we wouldn’t normally cultivate.

  5. Part of being part of a community inherently means that there are those who aren’t part of said community, and who are for whatever reason on the outside. Our society today is extremely polarized, and it requires a great deal of self-awareness to look beyond ourselves and to acknowledge the parameters of the bubbles that many of us live in. Chanukah comes at a time of renewal for the world itself, not just for the Jewish people, and it’s a perfect time to bring light outside of our own small sectors of the world by doing for and with others.

  6. In the Jewish tradition, Chanukah has been associated with women, but in most of the community, this practice has been forgotten. So this would be a great year to reclaim it by shedding light on the contributions of women, both historically and today. In modern business practices, and too often inside and outside of the Jewish community, women’s voices are not given the platform that they deserve, and are not heard and championed as loudly as they need to be. By sharing women’s stories, loudly and proudly, we can begin to reclaim the narrative.

  7. The cycle of the news is often so full of darkness. By working with our learners to find moments of light in the world around us, we can focus on those who are working to advance our values, who are making the world a better place, and who can inspire us as we look toward the year ahead.

  8. Every holiday brings with it the need to do for others – as educators, we’re curating experiences for our learners, possibly taking charge of planning for our communities, as well as for our own families. But just as we want to shine lights externally, we also need to bring light to ourselves internally. Judaism’s rituals and content are aligned with modern principles of self care. So in order to bring light to others, bring it to yourself first, and care for yourself in these long, dark days.

How will you bring light this season?