בַּסִּפְרִיָּה In the Library 12/8

Since there will be no library time next week, this was my big shot at Chanukah, and though I was not on my home turf in the Library, I made the most of it.

Most kids know something about Chanukah by kindergarten, so for that grade I chose an exciting tale based on Little Red Riding Hood called LITTLE RED RUTHIE: A HANUKKAH TALE by Gloria Koster. It was fun having them make the mean wolf sounds and imagine the courage it would take to make a very hungry wolf wait while Ruthie fries up several pans of crispy latkes!

I was shocked (but I shouldn’t have been) when I learned that the 1st/2nd graders knew nothing of Little House on the Prairie. Nevertheless, in the interest of introducing them to a delightful series of chapter books written decades ago by Sidney Taylor called All-of-a-Kind Family, about a Jewish family of 5 girls set in the Lower East Side in 1912, I launched into a wonderful picture book written by Emily Jenkins just last year called ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY HANUKKAH. It managed to capture all of the warmth and spirit of the original series, while explaining Chanukah at the same time.

Finally, I had fun teaching the 5th/6th/7th graders something very new for them. Those who had been in 6th grade last year remembered that I had discussed the origins of the Chanukah story, i.e. that the 1st and 2nd Book of Maccabees was not from the Tanach, but from apocrypha (a group of books rejected from the Hebrew bible, but retained in Greek translations and preserved by Christianity), https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/is-hanukkah-in-the-bible/ and that the story of the oil lasting 8 nights was a talmudic addition tacked on centuries later by the Rabbis to inject a little “God” into the story.

After a recap for the new kids, to keep things fresh I discussed another fantastic story from apocrypha that used to be a Chanukah staple — the story of Judith. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/yet-another-miracle/Judith was a rich and respected widow who managed to save all of Israel from a tyrannical Assyrian general, Holofernes, by seducing him with her beauty, plying him with cheese and wine, and when he was good and drunk, cutting off his head (the kids thought that was super cool!). And that is why, I told the kids, that we eat dairy foods on Chanukah and that the original latkes were made, not of potatoes, but CHEESE! https://www.pbs.org/food/features/history-of-latkes/

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