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Chanukah Acts: Publicizing the Miracles

Posted by: Deborah Fishman

December 14, 2012

Our Chanukah Acts series shares answers to the question: “What can parents and Jewish educators learn from [Chanukah] about how to inspire others to more active participation in Jewish life and connection to the State of Israel?” This post is by Rabbi Micah Lapidus, Director of Judaic and Hebrew Studies at The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy.

By: Micah Lapidus
Left: Teachers and 8th graders celebrate Chanukah at The Davis Academy. Photo by Micah Lapidus.
In placing the chanukiah in front of our window, we are trying to publicize the miracle. It seems like miracles should be self-evident, but they aren’t. They need to be acknowledged, analyzed, and appreciated.
I think we can all do a much better job at publicizing the miracles that take place in our Jewish Day School. Jewish educators are witness to countless miracles on a daily (even hourly) basis: the quiet student who suddenly decides to begin playing her viola at school-wide ceremonies, the new Middle School student who places out of ulpan after only a few months, the student who persuades her classmates to allocate their class tzedakah to the cancer treatment center that saved her parent’s life. When I look out my window, I see these things and consider them miracles. While they’re not unique to Jewish Day Schools, we experience them in great abundance.
Branching out from the idea of the chanukiah in the window, I’ll suggest the idea that all our Jewish Day Schools should be glass houses. Like the chanukiah in the window, a glass house Jewish Day School would allow every passerby to look in on the countless daily miracles that happen in our school communities: families empowered and transformed in their Jewish lives, communities enriched by Jewishly literate youth hungry for leadership opportunities, emerging Jewish artists, writers, musicians, philosophers and more. At the same time, everyone knows that glass houses are extremely fragile and need to be handled with care. We live in a time when Jewish Day Schools are miraculously robust and strong, yet also struggling to meet an array of sustainability goals and benchmarks. When we publicize the miracles that take place in our schools, we help people understand the precious and unique role we play.
Here at The Davis Academy, we don’t communicate the Chanukah story silently at all. First there’s the strike of the match, a small yet distinctive sound. It’s the sound of potential and transformation. In Judaism, it’s also a holy sound. Then there’s the sound of the flame being transferred to the candles and then the sound of the wax dripping onto the foil underneath the Chanukiah. There’s the sound of hundreds of children joining with their teachers in singing the berachot, “Maoz Tzur,” “Not by Might,” “Ocho Candelikas,” and “Oh Chanukah.” Regarding the Chanukah singing, I’d simply point out that these songs give us the sounds of many of our Jewish languages: Hebrew, English, Yiddish, and Ladino. There’s the sound of spinning dreidels and frying latkes (and munching mouths). These are the sounds of a living and thriving Jewish community. While we have no canonical sacred text to recite, we do make a thunderously joyful noise when it comes to Chanukah. We enact a sacred script and are anything but silent.
Rabbi Micah Lapidus is the rabbi and Director of Jewish and Hebrew Studies at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. He is also the executive vice president of PARDES: Day Schools of Reform Judaism, the consortium of Reform Jewish Day Schools. You can read more from him on his blog, The Rabbi’s Pen.

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