How RV celebrates Hanukkah

Members of RV’s Jewish community share how they celebrate Hanukkah

Ruby Levy, Student Life Writer

As the temperature drops and joy begins to fill the air, Christmas appears to be the center of attention this holiday season. This year especially, it is key to acknowledge holidays that most people forget about. Holidays, such as the annual Jewish holiday, of Hanukkah. 

With this frame of mind, we sought out some of RV’s Jewish students and teachers to find out their Hanukkah traditions, as well as their thoughts on Jewish representation in traditional public schooling. Junior Emily Cardonick, sophomore Ronit Hizgiaev, sophomore Joseph Klosinski and math teacher Ms. Redfield gave their thoughts on how they celebrate this December holiday

*note: there are multiple ways to spell Hanukkah; they all are referring to the same holiday*

 

How does your family celebrate Hanukkah? 

Ronit Hizgiaev, sophomore: “We have a pretty big traditional menorah, and we buy a box of oil cup candles and every night my mom, dad, brother and I all get together and light the candles. Typically, my dad is the one that lights them but my brother and I occasionally get involved. There is always one night of Hanukkah where we make latkes and sufganiyot. Latkes are potato pancakes, and sufganiyot are donuts, usually filled with jelly. Since there are 8 nights in Hanukkah, eight presents are given out each night. However, my family likes to do all the presents in one night, it’s just a little easier for us and cuts the suspense on seeing what I got. Every year my family, along with my older siblings, as well as nieces and nephews all get together to celebrate the beautiful holiday of Hanukkah. We love to play dreidel, eat chocolate coins, and play other games like Hanukkah bingo, or dreidel tic tac toe. It’s my favorite holiday.”

Emily Cardonick, junior: “We light the menorah, exchange gifts, and eat latkes and jelly donuts.”

Joseph Klosinski, sophomore: “My family celebrates Chanukah with a party. My family, cousins and grandparents all meet at someone’s house, this year it was my mother’s, and we eat, light the menorah then open presents.”

Ms. Redfield, teacher: “We always have a family gathering with my whole family, including my extended family. We do this on whatever Friday Hanukkah lands on because it’s Shabbat, that’s when we do our family gathering and we always have all sorts of food, including a chicken meal made by my mom.”

 

Are there any specific traditions that your family has when celebrating?

Hizgiaev: “We always have to have sufganiyot and latkes, it’s a nice bonding experience to have with my family when we all get together in the kitchen to help create the delicious foods.”

Cardonick: “On the eighth night, instead of getting a gift, we donate money to a charity of our choice.”

Klosinski: “We always eat brisket and Latkes with dinner.”

Ms. Redfield: “When I was a kid we always got a gift every night of Hanukkah, but each night the gift was from a different family member. Then, on the last night we would get a big gift from our parents. This is something that I do with my kids as well.”

 

What are your thoughts on not having any days off for Hanukkah, or any Jewish holidays at RV? 

Hizgiaev: “I was a little shocked but not surprised at the same time, I have never had a day off for Hanukkah growing up. I understand that we may not be able to have eight days off, but at least on the first night of Hanukkah we should get off. Some schools do choose to follow the Jewish calendar though, which I appreciate immensely. I always get questioned on how I feel about it, and I generally don’t like the fact we don’t have off. I think Christmas has become just such a normalized and widespread holiday that people start to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas.”

Cardonick: “Personally, it doesn’t bother me, since Hanukkah is at night and is not considered a major holiday. However, it does bother me that we do not get off for Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, which are extremely important holidays. These holidays deserve to be treated with as much respect as any other major holiday.” 

Klosinski: “If there was a higher Jewish population, then there could be a chance of having days off for Chanukah. There are already days off for other Jewish holidays in areas with a higher Jewish population. Chanukah is mostly an evening or nighttime holiday, because that’s when we light the candles, so having days off wouldn’t make a difference.”

Ms. Redfield“Because Hanukkah is such a minor holiday I don’t think we really need off. I’d much rather we be off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As a teacher, I end up having to use my personal days for those holidays.” 

 

What are your thoughts on Jewish representation in schools and other areas of the world? 

Hizgiaev: “I really think that not enough people are educated enough about Jewish holidays. I’ve been asked many questions that I never thought I’d be asked because I assumed that people would know the basic facts about Hanukkah. ‘Oh, you’re Jewish! That’s so cool.’ Thanks, but it’s not like I’m a different species from outer space, you know? I’ve experienced blatant anti-Semitism during the week of Hanukkah in the classroom. It doesn’t feel nice. I think that kids from preschool up to grade school should be taught all about the Jewish holidays, just like how we know about Halloween or Valentine’s Day. Let’s make sure younger students are informed about all aspects of Hanukkah.”

think that kids from preschool up to grade school should be taught all about the Jewish holidays, just like how we know about Halloween or Valentine’s Day”

— Hizgiaev

Cardonick: “I think that lack of education is a serious problem, as well as misrepresentation. A lot of Jewish representation is based on offensive stereotypes (even in children’s movies, books and video games). It’s very important to consult with actual Jewish people when teaching about Jewish culture/making Jewish characters in fiction.”

Klosinski: “Jewish representation is fine in all aspects of the world. There isn’t anything one can do to change it. Judaism is a small portion of a religious community, in a region growing increasingly non-religious.  You cannot force anyone to follow Judaism as that would be tyrannical and not conforming to the religious belief. Religion is not for anyone. Religion requires sacrifice. Religion offends people. Religion isn’t for entitled people that can’t withstand any criticism, like so many people are.”

Ms. Redfield: “I’m torn between it because we really don’t have many Jewish students and staff, and even if they are Jewish they don’t necessarily practice it. So as much as I would like to see representation more, I don’t see it being necessary for Hanukkah specifically. I would however like to see the school maybe do a Passover Seder or something where it wasn’t, ‘oh well, because we are doing Christmas we have to do Hanukkah.’ Something I don’t like is when it is December 31 and someone wishes me a happy Hanukkah, because Hanukkah was three weeks ago…I would like for those who don’t celebrate to be more aware, but that would take a lot more Jewish faculty to step up and help with that.”

 

What is your favorite part of Hanukkah?

Hizgiaevi: “My favorite part is the presents. I always make a list at least two months before, and plan it out very strategically. Besides gifts though, learning about where this holiday came from and started is also my favorite part. Every year I learn something new about Hanukkah and It makes me more proud to be Jewish.”

Cardonick: “My favorite part is the latkes. We get ours from Trader Joe’s, and I believe Trader Joe’s is better than homemade.”

Klosinski: “My favorite part about Chanukah is either the dinner or the candle lighting. The food is good, and it is nice to be with family. However, it is nice to be reminded how great this country is by allowing everyone to celebrate their religion freely. The candle lighting makes me proud of my Jewish identity because of the story of Chanukah.”

 

Growing up Jewish, did you ever feel left out when it came to Christmas?

Hizgiaev: Most definitely, it’s always “’Merry Christmas’ [and] decorations and then gnomes for Hanukkah…? C’mon now. I also like to do gift exchanges with my friends every holiday season, and I feel like this might be a controversial topic but I don’t really like it when I have to wait until Christmas time to receive my gift during gift exchanges with all my friends who celebrate Christmas. I just wish that I can receive my gift when it’s Hanukkah time, and not have to wait. That is something I think about every day for some reason. When I was younger, we would do Christmas-themed arts and crafts, but I never felt included.”

Cardonick: All the time. My teachers would always make a big fuss over Christmas since I was almost always the only Jewish kid in the class. I would be expected to do the Christmas activities, even though it was something I didn’t believe in. And if there was a Hanukkah activity, it was basically the same thing as the Christmas one with a dreidel slapped on it, like writing letters to ‘Santa.’ Teachers should try harder to include students of a different faith in the festivities.”

Klosinski: “No, I felt bad for their ignorance in thinking a fat guy can slide down a skinny chimney.”

Ms. Redfield: “Sometimes. But, I had friends where I would go over to their houses and decorate their Christmas tree, or friends I would do easter egg hunts with. I think my parents made a big enough deal about the Jewish holidays that I was able to appreciate them to their full extent. I also grew up Kosher, as well as going to things like Hebrew school. So I was very involved in my Jewish life that I didn’t feel like I needed to be a part of holidays like Christmas. There were always times where I felt a little left out, but I had enough of my own stuff going on that it was okay. I also grew up in a town with a lot of Jewish kids, so although it wasn’t a majority Jewish population, I was able to have friends that were Jewish.”