Struggling with the ‘fun factor’

December 2015

Jewish educators across the nation are struggling with the “fun factor.” How do we educate a generation of youngsters who are now exposed to an unending stream of TV shows, computer games, YouTube, and an overwhelming assortment of extracurricular activities: sports, art, dance, karate, etc.? The constant question we struggle with is: How can we make religious education fun without sacrificing substance? How can we create a system of learning that includes activities and programs that truly engage kids while fulfilling our mission to pass on our amazing history and heritage to the next generation? How can we compete with so many distractions available to our kids and with apathy about religion in general?

The “fun factor” is an important discussion particularly now, in the month of December, arguably the favorite time of year for many children. Chanukah time brings lots of fun: dreidel playing, gift-giving, latka and doughnut eating, and, of course, family celebration time. Over the years I have observed that even though having fun is a big part of Chanukah for many people, it’s not enough. We must make sure that the holiday time spent with family and friends —though of course a pleasurable experience — is more meaningful. How can we do this? One trend that I highly recommend is to make the celebration of the holiday and the generosity of parents giving gifts to children an opportunity to giveback to the community. On one — or all — nights of the festival, do a mitzvah project, volunteer, or give to the wider community. It is true that as Americans we get a double whammy of “doing good” during the holiday seasons, but when our observance of Chanukah is all fun, it’s clear we need a good dose of meaningfulness. By enhancing the fun through mitzvot and volunteering we can achieve that balance. We read in the Genesis 32 of Jacob wrestling “a being” and prevailing. Jacob is then given another name — Israel. Being the people ofI srael means we are supposed to struggle; it’s through our struggle that we prevail. So the most authentic part of Jewish education is wrestling with the issue of combining fun and meaning in the same celebration. As a Jewish educator I accept this challenge and embrace the struggle as a motivation to seek creativity, innovation, and inspiration.

During Chanukah consider these family opportunities:

*Game Night

*Cooking Night

*Mitzvah Project Night

*Movie Night

*Art Project Night

*Family and Friends Shabbat Dinner

*Count tzedakah money and decide on where to send it

*Family talent show evening

Thanks to all our volunteers who made the November Jewish Book Fair so successful. Special thanks to Bonnie Rosenfeld for being our Book Fair chair. Great Job! We add a light each night of Chanukah, increasing the light and displacing the darkness. May we all find meanings well as fun increasing each night of Chanukah an and into the future. Chag Urim Sameyach! Happy Chanukah to all! B’Shalom, Susan Werk, Educational Director

Sun, November 19 2017 1 Kislev 5778