From American Jewish World Service’s project Where Do You Give? and created in collaboration with Babaganewz, this is an excellent resource that families with kids of all ages can use around The holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its conquest by the Syrians in 165 BCE. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles in a hanukiyah oon each of eight nights. Other customs include the eating of fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), playing dreidl (a gambling game with a spinning top), and, in present day America, gift giving. to dedicate a night to giving Charity. In Hebrew, the word tzedakah derives from the word for justice. Tzedakah is not seen as emanating from the kindness of one’s heart but, rather, as a communal obligation. and to have a thoughtful conversation about deciding where to give.
Got Gelt? includes a lesson plan for students (attached) but it also features a take-home guide that encourages families to continue this important discussion during Hanukkah candle-lighting in their homes!
The following guidelines offer one way to structure this family activity—which your family may do already; feel free to adapt it to the particular needs of your family.
- Talk about the “gifts” in your life that you are grateful for (family, shelter, food, education, entertainment, etc.) and what “gifts” you think that everyone should have in their lives. Mention that giving tzedakah is a Lit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed." and an important way to share our gifts with others so that all people can live healthy and fulfilling lives.
- Decide how much money to donate. You might estimate the amount everyone spent on gifts over Hanukkah and donate an equal amount. Or consider asking your children to decide on an amount (based on their allowance or monetary gifts they’ve received) and offer to match it.
- Discuss where to donate the money. Use your earlier conversation about gifts as a springboard for thinking about an issue or a need you’d like to address through your tzedakah and then find an organization that works on that issue. If you already know about organizations you’d like to support, you can talk about those organizations specifically. Give each family member the opportunity to share his/her giving priorities. Set the tone for an open and supportive discussion in which family members engage in friendly debate about their priorities of where to donate the money. Some questions you might want to ask include: Why do you want to give to that cause or organization? What are the benefits of giving there? What might be some reasons not to prioritize it? How does it respond to each family member’s giving priorities? Note: We encourage you to try to donate all of the money to one organization so that members of the family experience how difficult it can be to choose among competing priorities. However, if the attempt to reach a unanimous decision becomes divisive, consider dividing the money and donating it to several organizations.
- Actually make the donation(or donations) that night, either online or by writing a check. You may choose to ritualize the act of giving by saying the following intentional statement:
As we gather by the light of the Hanukkah candles, we are thankful for the many blessings and gifts in our lives. We give tzedakah tonight so that others may also enjoy these blessings and gifts. May we continue to have the courage to give generously and the wisdom and patience to give responsibly.
On Hanukkah and afterward, you can add your family’s voice to a national conversation and hear from other families who participated in Got Gelt? by visiting www.wheredoyougive.org.