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Where are the Latkes?

12/01/2021 02:01:00 PM


Ora Cohen Rosenfeld

December, 2021 Shofar Article

Throughout my career as an educator, there is always one week that I go home from work every day smelling like oil, and that is the week of Hanukkah. Every classroom celebrates with dreidels and chocolate gelt, but making latkes has always been a central activity. With applesauce or sour cream, plain potato, sweet potato or zucchini, the Hanukkah latke has been a favorite class treat.

This year, at school, we will celebrate Hanukkah without latkes, as our COVID restrictions remain in place and, like a birthday with no birthday cake, the celebration can happen, but not without a feeling that something is missing. Our Jewish holidays are very food-centric, as the old joke goes, the basis for most Jewish holidays is “They wanted to kill us, we won, now let’s eat.”  

You may wonder why food is so important to our holiday celebrations, and I think one of the answers is connected to how children, and even adults, learn and remember. Hanukkah is one of the holidays that involves all of our senses – sight, taste, smell and touch. The beautiful candles in the Hanukiyah, the story we tell of the Maccabees and the oil that lasted eight nights, the smell of the oil and the taste of the fried foods to commemorate the miracle of the oil. We know that there are many different kinds of learners, and Hanukkah and other holidays like Purim and Passover, connect to each person in the way they learn and remember best. My own Hanukkah memories are connected to my time in Israel, where every corner store on my way to school sold fresh sufganiot (jelly donuts) in the weeks before Hannukkah. I arrived at my educational leadership program with powdered sugar on my maternity clothing – embarrassing but delicious.

I hope that our children’s experiences in our preschool and Religious School give them not only background on the holidays, but also warm memories that they choose to build upon in the future.

Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Holiday of Lights!)


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