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Celebrating the Spirit of Hanukkah in Valencia

For the second year since we’ve been living in Valencia, I visited Jacob’s Spanish Montessori preschool classroom to share about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah: the story, history, rituals, and traditions. I actually visited a few days before the official “first night” of Hanukkah since that coincided with several days of a holiday break (or puente) here in Spain.

We lit the candles with the blessings, played dreidel, sang and danced to Hanukkah songs, and enjoyed chocolate gelt (monedas); unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to make latkes for my visit.

Since to my knowledge we are the only Jewish family at the school, it was very important to me to be able to educate, share, and answer questions about Hanukkah (including the common “Is this the Jewish equivalent of Christmas?” For the record, nope; the events in the Hanukkah story date back to the 2nd century BCE in Jerusalem).

For me, this classroom visit has some familial precedent and significance. When we were growing up in rural western Illinois and also some of the only Jews in town, my dad used to visit our preschool classroom to share about Hanukkah and play the guitar; his visit even got written up in the local paper.

The Hanukkah story is one of finding and sustaining light amidst darkness, persisting and rebuilding amidst fear, intolerance, bigotry, and persecution. In this current period of darkness for us as Jews, I’m trying to focus on what I can do to share about our beautiful culture, history, and traditions, and to continue raising a proud, resilient Jewish child in this broken world.