students at Akiva academy mark rare convergence of hanukkah, thanksgiving
By LINDA M. LINONIS
Twenty kindergarten students at Akiva Academy offered a “Cornucopia of Thankfulness” during a program Thursday in recognition of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, which will be celebrated next week.
Tirtza Kohan, first-grade teacher and Akiva Hebrew/Judaic coordinator, said the 5-year-olds are probably too young to appreciate the “once-in-a-lifetime” event termed “Thanksgivukkah.” On the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah begins at sundown Wednesday, which is Thanksgiving eve. Turkey Day follows Thursday on the secular calendar.
Since families of students were invited to the Hanukkah and Thanksgiving program, the unusual event and the children’s participation will be preserved through photos and videos for posterity. “When they grow up, it will mean something to them,” Kohan said. About 50 family members attended.
The children recited special poetry and sang songs about the events.
Kohan said the children learned about the meal shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans. She sug-
gested latkes as part of the feast. The potato pancakes are a traditional part of Hanukkah but could easily be served on a Thanksgiving table.
At Akiva, Kohan said, there always is an emphasis on the positive.
In lessons revolving around Thanksgiving, she said teachers led students in a discussion about “what’s good” in their lives and what they are thankful for. “We want to dwell on the good and not the negative,” she said.
Akiva Academy students will participate in the community Hanukkah party planned for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Jewish Community Center, 505 Gypsy Lane. “The whole community is invited to that,” Kohan said. The big menorah will be lit, and there will be singing and dances. Traditional foods will include fried foods such as latkes and jelly doughnuts.
Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, recalls the story of the Maccabees, who won religious freedom by defeating the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.E. (before common era). Judah Maccabee led the small band to victory over a bigger force. When the Jews returned to the temple to light the lamps, there was only enough oil for one day. A miracle occurred when the oil lasted for eight days.
For Hanukkah, children play the dreidel game using a small spinning top. The miracle of the oil is recounted on the dreidel, whose four sides feature a Hebrew letter representing the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham.” It means “a great miracle happened there.”