For the past three months, Deb Keating has been participating in a year-long Jewish Parenting program called Ikkarim. Sponsored by Hebrew College and CJP, the program is currently being held at eight sites throughout the Greater Boston Area. Deb attends a class each Sunday morning at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham. She recently shared a transformational experience.

In our class right before Hanukkah we talked about the true meaning of the holiday. Yes, it’s about the Festival of Lights and the miracle of the oil burning, but our instructor, Sabrina Burger, spoke to us about the philosophical meaning…the celebration of the miracles in our life and the opportunity to appreciate all the blessings we’ve been given.

 

The next week, I volunteered to speak about Hanukkah in my children’s classrooms. Rather than proceeding with my typical story-reading and dreidel game-playing, I decided to also talk to the kids about what Hannukah really means. I told them the story of the oil, and then emphasized how important it is to take this time to appreciate the miracles in their lives and to think about things they are thankful for.

 

I also learned something new in Ikkarim about “the day of justice” and told the kids that on the 6th day of Hanukkah they should do something nice for someone else. So…in my daughters’ kindergarten and 2nd grade classes, I started the session by describing these points (time to be grateful and time to do something nice for someone) and you wouldn’t believe the beautiful comments I got from these young kids. One child said he was grateful for his best friend in school and gave him a big hug (he sits next to him). Another said he was grateful for getting a good education, and many of course said they were grateful for having family, food, etc. Since I visited their classes on day six of Hanukkah, the “day of justice,” they all promised me that they would do something nice for someone that night.

 

The next day I received tear-jerking thank you notes from the kids and the teachers from both classes. Many expressed how grateful they were for the experience. Keep in mind that there are just about no Jews in my town. I am sure that these kids talked to their families that night about their experience (we also read stories, played dreidel and they all got a goodie bag with gelt, a dreidel, etc.). I consider this the power of social media – I educated 45 kids and 2 teachers, and if they in turn educated a bunch of their families and friends, I touched a lot of people! If not for what I learned in Ikkarim, I would have just played dreidel and read stories and while these are fun too, my new, better informed approach had so much more meaning for me and the kids.

 

 

If you would like to enroll in Ikkarim: Parenting Through a Jewish Lens in the fall of 2011, or wish to “pay it forward” and treat a friend or family member to Ikkarim, please contact Elisha Gechter, Associate Director of Adult Learning, at egechter@hebrewcollege.edu or 617-457-8746.