Starting Tuesday night and continuing for a week, a great miracle will happen here.  Right here. Your children will watch, entranced, as their teachers and parents light candle after candle for a seemingly endless amount of nights. There is something magical about Chanukah, as we shift our routines ever so slightly for one week to include the ritual of bringing light to the world.  While the story of Chanukah recalls a miracle of long ago, I believe we re-enact this miracle each year with our children.  In school and at home, we are afforded an opportunity to engage in the same type of behavior that the story’s heroes, the mighty Maccabees, displayed: standing up for what we believe in and shining a light into darkness.

As our students have begun crafting individual menorahs over the past several days, many of them have taken to the theme of “identity” around the holiday. The Maccabees provide a powerful example of believing in yourself and in your community; the children in classroom 6 have been discussing “things that represent themselves” and “creating menorahs to portray their unique identities.” Similar conversations and themes have been explored in many of our classrooms.

When we explore our own identities, we are better positioned to shine light into darkness.  When we light the Chanukah candles, we are taking an affirmative stance towards goodness in the world: Here I am, proud and powerful, confident that light will conquer darkness.  The nightly lighting of the menorah reminds us of the many ways in which we are responsible for making the world a better place.

A new initiative hosted by the JCC, #PlusLight, facilitated by our dear friend and artist Tobi Kahn (who each of our preK students has worked with already this year on Sukkot decorations), provides a forum for “sharing light and hope in the face of the daunting realities of our time.”  #PlusLight is a virtual project conceived by Tobi to focus on the seeing of light in everyday life. And we, the JCC community, are inviting the global community to use this hashtag as a way of documenting the light they see in the world during the holiday season. You can join in by tagging photos of light on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, visiting the JCC #PlusLight page, or emailing photos to On each of the eight nights of Chanukah, Tobi Kahn will select one inspiring image to feature on JCC Manhattan’s Facebook page.  Additionally, for every 50 photos tagged with #PlusLight MPOWERED will donate a solar powered light to people living in energy poverty.

#PlusLight can be a great way to engage in the values of the holiday with your children and family, by looking for examples of light brightening a dark space, literally or metaphorically.  You can also scroll through the posted photos and talk with your children about how light, shadows, and darkness interact.  For many of you who will be joining us next week for class Chanukah parties, you can take pictures of your class menorah and add these to #PlusLight as well (no pictures with students in them should be added to social media; please respect our school policy on this), and follow through with similar pictures of your menorah at home.

You and your family are invited to join the many JCC Chanukah celebrations, including the free family programs highlighted below. 

Lastly, in an effort to shine light into dark places, Rabbi Joy Levitt has invited the entire community to a living room conversation at the JCC this Saturday at 5:30PM with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on New York City Police Department policies, race dynamics in New York City, and the changing face of New York. Details for this event are below as well.

Shabbat shalom,