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Happy Hanukah Culture-Gram

December 22, 2016

From Guest Blogger Kelly Steiner


What is Hanukah?

Hanukah is actually not a very important Jewish holiday. It ranks WAY down the list, which is one of the key ways that it differs from Christmas. It is a celebration of a victory in about 165 B.C.E. (Jews use before the common era and common era instead of B.C. and A.D. since those focus on Jesus’ birth as the key date set). In this victory a small group of Jewish farmers, led by the Macabee family defeated a much larger and better prepared Syrian army who had desecrated the temple. It’s an underdog story. The menorah (9 candle holder) comes from the story that after the victory the Jews went to re-establish the temple but only had enough oil for 1 day of the holy light that never goes out but it would take 8 days to get more sacred oil. Miraculously, the oil lasted all 8 days. So at Hanukah we light one candle for each night (1 on the first night, 2 on the second night, etc.) to celebrate this. Like most Jewish holidays the focus is on repeating the story and explaining it, especially to younger generations to maintain the communal cultural memory. There are 9 candles because one is a helper (Shamash) that you light first and use to light the others (so on the first night it’s the Shamash plus one for the first night, etc). Hanukah actually means “dedication” as in the re-dedication of the temple.

How do you spell it?
There is no one correct english spelling since Hebrew doesn’t share letters with English, all writing of hebrew words is just a sounding out. It’s just as correct to write Chanukah.

What do people do?/ What is reasonable to expect from my students?
People often get together with families. It’s customary to light the lights, tell the story, sing songs, play dreidel (a top with 4 hebrew letters that represent the phrase “a great miracle happened there” because teaching Jewish tradition was banned so it hid the education as a gambling game but allowed the teaching of the story) and to eat fried foods (to focus on the oil, and well, it’s delicious).
It’s reasonable to expect students to do their school work but you may need to be sensitive to kids who are traveling to be with family or who have a ton of people over to their house.

How do I say something to them?
You can say “Happy Hanukah” or “Happy Holidays”, just preferably not “Merry Christmas”.

When is it this year?
Short answer: starts at sundown December 24. Like all Jewish holidays it starts at sundown the night before the first day. It continues for 8 days. The Jewish calendar is lunar so it’s not in synch with the Gregorian calendar. In order to make up the difference in seasons there is a leap month added to the Jewish calendar 7 times every 19 years. This was done since last Hanukah.

Is it just a Jewish Christmas?
Very much not. It’s got a very different origin, much less significance, and very different symbols. What they have in common is a focus on light (which is found in many northern hemisphere cultures near the winter solstice) and the potential for gifts (although this is down played at Hanukah since it’s such a minor holiday).

Kelly teaches science at Shorewood Intermediate School in Milwaukee, WI. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University.

Word of the Day: Peace

November 18, 2016

I am reminded of a quote from the 1993 book by Mary Rose O’Reilly, The Peaceable Classroom.

“Is it possible to teach English so that people stop killing dove_peaceeach other?”

I  have always believed I could teach this way, and I still believe I (we) can.


1: a state of tranquillity or quiet:


a: freedom from civil disturbance

b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom

2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions

3: harmony in personal relations


a:  a state or period of mutual concord between governments

b:  a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity

  1. —used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

    –at peace

    :  in a state of concord or tranquillity













Word of the Day: Thoughtful

November 17, 2016

adjective thought·ful \ˈthȯt-fəl\
Simple Definition

:serious and quiet because you are thinking
:done or made after careful thinking
:showing concern for the needs or feelings of other people

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

All three definitions are useful!

Word of the Day: Considerate

November 15, 2016


adj: showing concern for the rights and feelings of others

Being considerate is being polite and caring. People like it when you’re considerate of their feelings.img_2168

We could all probably be more considerate of others: this word means you’re thinking of other people — considering them — and then treating them decently and with respect. It’s considerate to say “please” and “thank you” to people. It’s considerate to excuse yourself, rather than walking out and slamming the door. Asking someone how they feel is usually considerate. A considerate person is kind and thoughtful — a good person to know.

How can you be considerate today?

Join the Campaign for Civility!

Word of the Day: Patience

November 14, 2016

1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay

Word of the Day: Respect

November 11, 2016


noun re·spect \ri-ˈspekt\

Simple Definition of respect

: a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

: a particular way of thinking about or looking at something

Consider playing the song RESPECT by Aretha Franklin. Discuss the meaning of respect. Have students give examples of what respect looks like and sounds like in action. Put students in groups of four and have them create an acrostic poem for the word RESPECT. Encourage students to be creative and to decorate artfully. Share and post in the classroom or hallway.

Ready to help

Everyone has value





Thank you

Model respect today. Join the Campaign for Civility!

Word of the Day: Kind

November 10, 2016




Simple Definition of kind:

having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others : wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others

Synonyms: attentive, considerate, thoughtful

How can you be kind today?

Choose Kind Resources



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