A (Personal) Hanukkah Tradition: Teaching Dreidel in the Classroom

I have three kids, ages 10-15, and they all went to Jewish pre-school. Back then, when December rolled around, it was all about Hanukkah. Songs, food, crafts and dreidel - all good.

When they entered kindergarten in public school, however, they were one of a small handful of Jewish kids in the classroom. So when December rolled around, they experienced all their classmates' excitement about Christmas, along with some puzzled looks about Hanukkah. This produced a bit of Santa envy.

That's when I e-mailed the teacher and asked if I could come in to teach the kids to play dreidel. I've done this every year for each child until they were out of elementary school (my youngest is in 4th so I only have two years left!). Every time I asked, the teacher was happy to give me at least a half hour of class time.

This post is for anybody who'd like to start this hanukkah tradition for their kids. I put together this little guide to make it easy for you. My kids have always looked forward to my coming in to teach dreidel, and after experiencing it once, so did their classmates! 

 

TIPS FOR TEACHING DREIDEL IN THE CLASSROOM

- Schedule with teacher in advance - a 30 minute time slot is ideal.

- I like to start off by telling the story of Hanukkah. The website My Jewish Learning has one that's an ideal length called "What You Need to Know About the Hanukkah Story". You can find it here.

- Buy supplies. For each child you'll need:

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SUPPLIES

• DREIDELS: I bought a 30 pack of wooden ones here.

• DIXIE CUP: I like to count out the beans in advance, and a little cup is a handy way to store them and hand them out to the kids.

• BEANS: I use dried black or kidney beans.

• PRINT OUT: (See below) Kids can refer to this as they play. Here's one I made up that has 3 per page, so you just need to print it out and cut into thirds. Download it here.


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- Bag of gelt (optional). Because of allergies, your school might not want you to hand out food (my daughter's school doesn't). In this case, what I do is leave the bags of gelt in a box on my front porch. In class, I give the kids my address and let them know that if they'd like a bag of gelt they can ask their mom or dad to drive past my house and pick one up. I found a box of 24 that specify NO NUTS here.

 
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Here's some directions on how to play Dreidel, excerpted from WikiHow:

Dreidel is a traditional game of chance, and one of the most well-known symbols of Hanukkah. The dreidel is a four-sided top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The game dates back at least to the time when the Greek King Antiochus IV (175 BCE) had outlawed Jewish worship. Jews who gathered to study the Torah would play dreidel to fool soldiers into thinking they were just gambling. Now, it's usually played to see who can win the most gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil). With a dreidel and some tokens, you can take part in this holiday tradition, too. 

Get a dreidel. The dreidel you will get will depend on where you live. Outside of Israel, the four letters on the sides of the dreidel are Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Shin,which stand for "A Great Miracle Happened There," referring to the miracle of the oil. In Israel, where the miracle happened, the dreidel has the letters Nun, Gimmel, Hay, and Pey, which means "A Great Miracle Happened Here

  1. Gather friends. You can play with as few as two, but the more the merrier! Distribute tokens evenly among all of the players. The tokens can be any little thing: pennies, nuts, raisins, matchsticks, etc. A lot of people use gelt.

  2. Ante up. Before each spin, players put one token in the middle of the circle to create "the pot." Every time the pot is emptied, or there's only one token left, every player should put a token in the pot.

  3. Take turns spinning the dreidel. When it's your turn, spin the dreidel once. The letter which comes up once it stops spinning determines whether you win, lose, or draw. According to the letter appearing, the player should perform the following action:

    • Shin ("shtel" or "put in" in Yiddish) - Put one more token in the pot.

    • Nun ("nisht"or "nothing" (in Yiddish) - Do nothing.

    • Gimmel ("gantz"or "everything" in Yiddish) - Take all tokens from the pot.

    • Hay ("halb"or "half" in Yiddish) - Take half of all tokens lying in the pot. In case of an odd number of tokens, round up.

    • If you run out of tokens, you are either "out," or you may ask another player for a loan.

  4. Pass the dreidel on to the next player.

  5. Keep playing until someone wins by collecting all the tokens.

 

Lastly, if you'd like to hand out a dreidel coloring sheet for the kids to take home, here's one I made last year - you can download it here.

Good luck - have fun - and Happy Hanukkah!!!

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Happy Sukkot!

Today is the first day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It's sort of like Thanksgiving in that it celebrates the earth's bounty, but it's also a commemoration of the 40 year period the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert after escaping their lives of slavery in Egypt.

The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, which means "booth" or "tabernacle". The sukkah is a temporary structure with four walls and a roof loosely covered with branches so that the stars are still visible. During the harvest season, farmers would build and live in these structures out in the fields, and during their exodus from Egypt, Jews would live in dwellings such as these.

For several years, I used to build a sukkah of our own in the backyard. My family and I would eat our meals inside, and one year we even slept in it overnight. I stopped building it in recent years because it was a HUGE job, but for the years we did have it, it was a wonderful experience. 

Besides the sukkah structure itself, the holiday includes a ritual which involves shaking the lulav and etrog in all directions (signifying that G-d is everywhere). The etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon, and the lulav is three different plant species all bound together, and named for the largest of the three. Combined, the lulav and etrog are four species, all of which are mentioned in the Torah. There are several explanations as to why these particular species were chosen for the ritual, but my favorite one likens each of the species to a part of the human body. With the etrog as the heart, the willow as the lips, the lulav (or palm) as the spine, and the myrtle as the eyes, it's said that through the use of these body parts we can serve G-d by helping others. 

I don't have a sukkah this year, but if I did, I might use my illustration shown here as one of the decorations. If you'd like to download this image to hang in your sukkah, feel free, you can get it here. Hang as is, or color it in. One suggestion that I have is to laminate it with one of the thicker weight lamination films at your local copy store. This will protect it in the rain, keep it hanging flat, and give you a stiff border through which you can punch some holes to hang it. If you remember, please send me a pic of your sukkah, would love to see it. Chag Sameach!

Passover Buttercrunch Matzah Recipe, Illustrated

I've been wanting to illustrate a recipe, and now that Passover is here I thought I'd work on the most delicious, addictive Jewish holiday dessert ever - Chocolate Covered Buttercrunch Matzah!

In addition to exploring recipe illustration, this is my (a little too late) attempt to add a personal touch to the holidays. I had planned on actually MAKING the dessert to bring to my sister's Seder, along with print-outs of the recipe for the kids to color. With time running short, I still need to hard-boil and peel two dozen eggs, make the Charoset, and bag up the chametz. Looks like I may not be getting to this little project after all... but there's always next year. 

Another idea I'd had was to print this out onto card stock, reduced, and use it as a gift tag to accompany a tin full of the buttercrunch matzah. I'd give it as a little spring-time gift to Hebrew school teachers or anyone else I've been feeling grateful for.

If you'd like to use this image for a personal project this Passover, feel free to print it out. I'd love to see what you do with it, so send pics if you can.

Happy Passover!

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Challah Cover Workshop

To make these challah covers we used burlap, white felt, colored chalk, scissors and glue. I cut the burlap ahead of time. Workshop participants removed strands along the perimeter to make a fringe as long or as short as desired. A line of glue stopped it from fraying any more. Designs were sketched onto the white felt, cut out, and glued into place. Colored chalk remnants blown away. Done!

Easy, inexpensive, rustic, unique. My daughter and I made the ones below and alternate with others we’ve made to make each Shabbat meal special….

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Holiday Gift Bag

 
vickykatzman.com/chanukah
 

This quick tutorial accompanies the Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew I designed for the Spoonflower holiday gift bag contest. I used my cut-paper design which I originally used as a Chanukah card illustration. Enjoy!

Supplies:

  • Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew pattern.

  • Scissors

  • Ribbon or String

  • Safety pin

  • Needle & thread

 

How To:

1. Cut out the pattern pieces along the dotted lines.

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2. Place right sides together. From top of design, measure down 1" and place pins at the 1" mark on both sides. Continue pinning along the side and bottom edges.

 step 4

step 4

 step 7

step 7

3. Starting at the 1" mark, backstitch then continue to sew around the perimeter using a 1/4" seam allowance until reaching the 1" mark on the other side. Backstitch to secure.

4. Trim tips of the bottom corners at an angle.

5. Press seam allowances open.

6. Turn the unfinished top edge under 1/4", iron and sew.

 step 7

step 7

7. Turn top edge under again, this time 3/4", iron and pin. Starting at a side seam, sew around the top of the bag, keeping seam 1/8" from bottom edge of fold. Backstitch at the start and the finish.

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8. Turn bag right sides out and iron seams flat.

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vickykatzman.com_chanukah_gift_bag_tutorial

9. Measure anywhere from 20" - 40" of ribbon or string depending on how long you'd like the finished handle to be. Pin the safety pin through one end of the ribbon, then thread safety pin through and around top seam of bag. Pull ribbon through until both ends align, then make a knot near seam opening.

All done...time to fill it with your gift!

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vickykatzman.com_chanukah_gift_bag_tutorial
vickykatzman.com/chanukah_wine_bag

Just for fun, changed out the ribbon to this slightly fancier one with a silver trim. This bag is wide enough for two wine bottles!

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Included in the Peace, Love, Chanukah cut & sew available through Spoonflower, follow the same instructions as listed above to make this one. Disregarding the fact that I need to practice my sewing skills.... this little bag is the perfect size for  gelt. Happy Chanukah!