Eight Nights to Transform Chanukah
into A “Festival of Giving”
by Rabbi Paul J. Kipnes, Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas, CA
Chanukah, as a Festival of Rededication, calls on us to rededicate ourselves to the freedoms for which the Maccabees fought: religious freedom to study Torah and to live out its ideals. Chanukah, as a Festival of Lights, beseeches us to shine the light of Torah in our darkened world. Chanukah, as a Festival of Giving, invites us to share the Light of Torah with others by rededicating ourselves to the Jewish obligation of Tzedakah. Each night, after candles and before gifts, participate in one of these eight ways to transform your Chanukah celebration into a Festival of Giving:
1. Hold a Gelt Giveaway: Instead of gifts, Jews traditionally gave gelt (small coins) to little children. This year, search the home for loose change in drawers, under couches, in mom or dad’s pockets. Count up the change (add more if you like) and make out a check for that amount to your favorite charitable organization.
2. Help Foster Children: Our ACAC (Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker) Supports our extensive social action programming supports over 1,000 children in the foster care system, including children healing from neglect and abuse. Our award-winning programs include the Mervyn’s Childspree, Mitzvah Day and Prom Prep 101. www.orami.org/donate
3. Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Education. Our Madraygot (12 Step) activities include parent educational through our Or Ami Center for Jewish parenting, speakers to our Temple Teen Night participants, and the training of a rabbinic intern to facilitate these activities throughout the congregation and community. www.orami.org/donate
4. Support Fellow Congregants who are Struggling: Friends helping Friends (Chaver l’Chaver) by giving the gift of synagogue membership to a family which lacks the means to afford it. When times are tough, we need communal caring, spirituality and the anchor of Torah to get us through. www.orami.org/donate
5. SOVA: Volunteer your time at the Valley’s SOVA Community Food and Resource Program. This year, as the economy slides, SOVA’s food lines have more than doubled. They urgently need food donations. They urgently need volunteers to help unpack, sort and box food for redistribution to their three pantries. They have shifts to suit everyone’s schedule (including Sundays!). Call Maxine at SOVA at 818-789-7633 or e-mail at MaxineM@jfsvalley.org. Or donate at www.jfsla.org/sova. Let your hands do the work of bringing light into the world.
6. Encourage Jewish Social Justice Activism in Washington D.C.: The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in the nation’s capital for over 40 years. It has educated and mobilized the American Jewish community on legislative and social oncerns as an advocate in the Congress of the United States on issues ranging from Israel and Soviet Jewry to economic justice and civil rights, to international peace and religious liberty. The RAC is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,700 Reform rabbis in 900 congregations throughout North America. (Rabbi Kipnes was a legislative assistant at the RAC in 1986.) To donate to the RAC, go to www.rac.org or call 202-387-2800.
7. Support organizations which support Israel: AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, is one of the leading American Jewish organizations that annually for U.S. aid to Israel and other issues of concern that concern the security of the State of Israel (at www.aipac.org); New Israel Fund is a philanthropy that promotes equality, fairness and justice for all of Israel’s citizens by raising money to donate to grassroots organizations in Israel working for social change (www.nif.org); Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy arm for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, aims to advance religious freedom and pluralism, tolerance, social justice and civil liberties in Israel, based on the belief that these values are intrinsic to Judaism (www.irac.org), and ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, furthers the development of Progressive Reform Judaism in Israel and throughout the world, by building congregations and community centers (www.arza.org).
8. Make the light (and energy) last longer than 8 nights: Turn off extra lights, lower the heat, recycle your garbage, install low energy appliances and invest in other ways to conserve energy. Or do the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) Chanukah Scavenger Hunt to green your home: (http://www.coejl.org/~coejlor/Hanukkah/documents/scavengerhunt.php). COEJL is at www.coejl.org.