Akiva Academy students present Hanukkah celebration

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By William K. Alcorn



Stronger Together, the theme of Akiva Academy’s 2018 Hanukkah celebration Thursday at Congregation Rodef Sholom, was inspired by the slaying of 11 members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27.

Some 140 students in kindergarten to eighth grade celebrated the first day of Hanukkah by performing dance, skits and plays reflecting the theme by showing that all should stand up against hatred, anti-Semitism and racism, said Tirtza Kohan, an Akiva teacher and coordinator of the program.

It began with the lighting of the Star of David and a Hanukkah menorah, which has nine branches. One branch is typically placed above or below the others, and its candle is used to light the other eight candles, adding one each of the eight days of the observance, which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

“We pick a theme to do with love and connect it to the story of Hanukkah,” said Kohan.

She said she was inspired after the Tree of Life shootings by the way people from all religions stood up against hate and racism because that is behind all of the mass killings that have been happening around the country.

“It’s just a message. You don’t fight hate with hate, even though it is hard not to. Hate is only overcome with love. Light always wins over darkness, and the Hanukkah celebration performance reflected that theme,” Kohan said.

Some of the thoughts performed were “The more we get together, the happier we will be” and “When we all work together, we can make a change.”

Others were: “Each of us has only a small light, but if we get together, we can light the world”; “I hope someday you love us and the world becomes one”; and “So what if we don’t walk and talk and look alike – we are family.”

The kids were jumping up and down with excitement, and the parents were proud of them.

London Cowan, 7, daughter of Je’Nita Thompkins and Chuck Cowan of Girard and granddaughter of Gloria Thompkins of Liberty, all of whom were in attendance, would not tell her mother about the program ahead of time, but Mom said she noticed London had been practicing some songs all week. Akiva is a great place for kids to discover and understand other cultures, said Je’Nita.

“Singing is her passion. She sings and hums all day long,” Toni Turner of Youngstown said of her granddaughter, Cailyn Turner, 9, of Youngstown.

Cailyn’s mother, Ashley Moore, who likes the curriculum and small class sizes at Akiva, added that her daughter is in “A Christmas Story” at the The Oakland Center for the Arts.

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