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Spreading the Light: Celebrating Hanukkah in a Foreign Land

This morning I had the opportunity to visit Jacob’s classroom to share about Hanukkah (or Jánuca en español). I suggested the idea a few weeks ago and his Montessori guías (teachers) were enthusiastic and welcoming. 

Not surprisingly, it was challenging to find the necessary supplies in Valencia. Even didn’t have much of a selection or which could be delivered in time. Thankfully a few local Jewish friends helped out by lending a menorah, dreidels, and Hanukkah books; Nana also supplied dreidels and decorations which Jacob was excited to show his friends. I also managed to find a version of gelt (monedas de chocolate) at the El Corte Inglés (which is like a Nordstrom + gourmet supermarket all in one). The hardest piece was the candles (velas); I could only find regular-sized ones marketed for Christmas and ended up whittling them down to fit in the borrowed menorah. 

Nevertheless, the visit was lovely. Thanks to the wonderful resources from @pjlibrary, I was able to prep the preschool age-appropriate Hanukkah story with character cut-outs, explain the dreidel game, and light candles with the kids’ involvement. (And 🙏🏼 to @msolita who vetted the Spanish translations!) I ended up feeling pretty comfortable presenting and answering questions about Hanukkah traditions in Spanish, with a few “como se dice …”’s thrown in. 😆 The class was attentive, curious, and seemed to enjoy this learning experience. 

We’ve been fortunate to connect with a small Jewish community, both Spaniards and expats, in this city. Families have included us in their diverse festival meals and Shabbat celebrations which have been very special. But along with the rise of anti-semitism in the US and around the world, it also doesn’t escape notice that the World Cup final game occurred at the same time as the first night of Hanukkah in European time zones. So for many reasons it feels even more important this year to proudly and openly share about our culture and traditions in a place where we may be the first Jews some families are meeting, and when we are celebrating far away from home.