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Economic Justice Program Bank for Hanukkah

Incoporate Tzedakah into Hanukkah Parties

Find ideas to incorporate giving and tikkun olam into Hanukkah parties this season

Hanukkah Activities to Combat Poverty

Find ideas to combat poverty in your town through Hanukkah. 

Ner Shel Tzedakah  

Ner Shel Tzedakah (“Candle of Righteousness”) is a project in which families and individuals devote the 6th night of Hanukkah to learning about the problem of poverty. They donate the value of the gifts (or the gifts themselves) that they would otherwise exchange on that night to organizations that assist the poor. By making donations on the sixth night of Hanukkah, individuals will help the candle of righteousness glow brightly for those in need.  

There are many ways to incorporate Ner Shel Tzedakah into your Hanukkah practice. The following ideas can help you get started: 

 

Donate Your ‘Gelt’ 

On the sixth night of Hanukkah, gather as a family to discuss ways to donate the value of your Hanukkah presents. In particular, in lieu of giving Hanukkah gifts, you might think about making donations in honor of your friends and family to help poor families keep the heat on during the cold winter months. 

 

Light One Candle 

Congregants at Congregation Shir Tikvah, of Troy, MI, provide Hanukkah gifts to less fortunate children, seniors and homeless adults in their community in a very personal way. Participants pick one or more candles from a large cardboard menorah, each listing the gender and age of one recipient. (Other congregations, such as Temple Shalom of Louisville, KY, place these cards on top of an actual chanukiyah). They then purchase a gift for the selected person. The gifts are then collected and delivered. 

 

Religious School Gift Drive 

Port Jewish Center, in Port Washington, New York sponsors a gift drive through the religious school. Noting that we each will be receiving presents, children are taught about our responsibility to share with those who might not be receiving presents. Each class is responsible for bringing in an item such as candies, lotions, magazines, sweaters, stuffed animals and other small items, which are collected into gift bags. A local bookstore donates plain brown bags, which are decorated by the K-1 class. Half of the bags are delivered to a nursing home by the fourth grade class, which studies life cycle. The class also sings some Hanukkah songs with the residents. The other bags are donated to a local AIDS program. 

 

Tzedakah Gift Shop 

Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ runs a Tzedakah Gift Shop in conjunction with the Sisterhood Chanukah gift shop. A display of eight colorful tubes (set up to look like candles), each of which bears the name of a charity or project, is placed in the lobby. In front of each candle is a stack of colorful description cards describing the work of the particular organization. As people shop for their Hanukkah presents, they can donate money in these candle-shaped tzedakah boxes, and they are encouraged to use these donations in lieu of gifts (hence the colorful description cards). The Tzedakah Gift Shop remains in the synagogue lobby throughout Hanukkah (with regular removals of cash). 

 

Make Our Tzedakah Grow 

Congregation Or Ami, of Calabasas, CA, initiated a program to “transform Hanukkah from a holiday of getting presents into a festival of giving tzedakah.” At the community Hanukkah service, the rabbi hands $100 to 4-6 randomly chosen congregants and challenges them to use this money as a vehicle for tikkun olam. They are not allowed to donate the money back to the synagogue, and they are asked to let the congregation know how the money was spent.  

 

Conduct a Fair Trade Coffee Fundraiser   

High school students at Temple Kol Ami in White Plains, New York, sold Fair Trade coffee at the temple’s Hanukkah boutique and stocked their booth with informational material about the importance of Fair Trade. Through this program, students provided a way for members of the community to purchase fairly traded gifts for Hanukkah, educated the community about Fair Trade and raised over $500 towards their service mission to El Salvador with the American Jewish World Service. You can purchase wholesale Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate and find informational materials at the Interfaith Coffee Program of Equal Exchange. 

 

Raise Awareness About Sweatshop Labor  

In this season of shopping, instead of spending a day at the mall buying gifts, pursue justice instead. Let store managers and retail companies know that their customers are concerned about sweatshops, and encourage them to sell sweatshop-free products. Divide into small groups to visit different stores. Ask the manager challenging questions to raise awareness about this hidden issue. You may wish to write a letter explaining your youth group’s opposition to sweatshop labor to give to the manager during your conversation. For more information, head to www.freethechildren.com