The Value of Celebrating Chanukah: Giving Hope to Our Children and Ourselves

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins Tuesday night.  It is a holiday that celebrates the idea of rededication, standing up for what one believes in, and having pride in our Jewish heritage.  Celebrating Chanukah is a special gift for families and especially children.  By observing the holiday, we are able to explore deep questions reminding ourselves of our core values.  We are to celebrate our heritage, God, and how we can make a difference in the world.

During this season, I recommend that we discuss what it means to be grateful and our responsibility to give back to community and those in need.  A great way to do this is to have one night of Chanukah that is focused on social justice and charity, where kids give up one of their presents to another child in need.  Teaching them that to do good sometimes means we live with less things.  Too often our kids do not learn what it means to give to charity. 

Charity also includes volunteering, and learning about the challenges that others face.  Helping children to empathize is very important.  Our kids only know life from their perspective.  By sharing how some families work hard all year, but still cannot afford to buy gifts for their kids we can show them that people in need do not necessarily have bad lives.  We want to show that people we give to are special just like they are.  Kids can make a personal card to give with the donation.  And it can be an opportunity to remind our children that the holiday is about more than just presents. 

Chanukah is about hope.  It is a time of food, singing, lighting the menorah, and taking time as a family.  Our songs are about how God protects, and that good prevails.  Let us remind ourselves that life is a blessing and that miracles are real.  Camp Pinebrook hopes you and your family enjoy these 8 special days of festivities.  May all of our menorahs radiate with the glow of hope, peace, generosity, and love!

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Season of Gratitude

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In Judaism, gratitude is a very important value.  Hodayah is the Hebrew word for gratitude. In our faith tradition, the focus is on being mindful and appreciative of life and the world around us.  Our children have an innate gift of being awed by simple beauties in nature, like the stars in the sky or leafs on a tree.  Personally, I am grateful for the silly moments when my boys start giggling and smile, especially when it leads to a hug and kiss.  So often, simple values like gratitude are forgotten or overlooked. 

At Camp Pinebrook our summer infuses values like gratitude (hodayah). Our community and activities also focus on Jewish values of community (kehillah), teamwork (shutafut), respect (kavod), encouragement (edud) and compassion (rachamim).  These values guide camp life.  Being Jewish is about how we live each day. We infuse these principles into how camp functions: at lunch there may be a skit, or in art campers may focus on a value for inspiration.  But most importantly being a mensch (Being an ethical and decent human being) will be taught, discussed, and experienced in how we treat one another at camp.

Camp Pinebrook hopes that your Thanksgiving is filled with blessings and gratitude!