By Lauren Klein
Director of Family Philanthropy
Center for Funds & Foundations
The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
From pumpkin-filled donuts to sweet potato latke recipes, there are many creative ways to celebrate this year’s unique overlap of Chanukah and Thanksgiving. I would like to offer some ideas for blending the Chanukah tradition of giving with the Thanksgiving ideal of gratitude.
Here are eight suggestions of how to use Thanksgivukkah as a launch pad for learning, tzedekah, and values-based family activities.
1. During Thanksgiving dinner, take a “gratitude break.” Ask everyone to take a moment to think about the best gift they have ever received:
- Was it a tangible gift?
- Was it an experience?
- Who gave it to you?
- What made it so special?
Go around the table and share. You may just learn that your daughter’s favorite gift was that quiet morning you spent snuggling together on the couch and not the iPod Touch you got her last Chanukah.
2. Make the tzedakah box the centerpiece on the table, and invite guests to give – a quarter, a dollar, or more – to a collective tzedakah pool. Over dessert, ask each guest to suggest an organization or cause to support and give a 60-second pitch explaining why it’s important. Then, talk about the different issues raised and vote on which organization(s) you’ll support. Don’t focus on the amount of money; it’s about the discussion and the feeling of giving together as a family.
3. Watch a movie together with a philanthropic message, like “Pay it Forward,” and talk about its key messages. Does doing a good deed for satisfaction lessen the deed? What motivates our actions? What does Judaism say about the motivation for tikkun olam (repairing the world)?
4. If your family tradition is to give your children gifts each night, set aside one night as a night to “give to others.” Go to a toy store together and have each child select a toy to donate to a local drive, such as Jewish Community Services’ Toy Chest.
5. Participate in a hands-on volunteering activity as a family to demonstrate the gift of time and money. Jewish Volunteer Connection, a program of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, can help identify the right placement for you and your family.
6. Pull out the crayons, stickers, scissors and glue for a make-your-own tzedakah box activity. As you decorate, talk about tzedakah, what it means to give Jewishly and why it’s important. Drop the first coins in together as an opportunity to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing.
7. Read books about giving, tzedakah, and philanthropy. Here are some suggestions:
- What Zeesie Saw on Delancy Street by Elsa Okon Rael (pre-school and elementary age students)
- Mitzvah Magic by Danny Siegel (elementary age students)
- The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen (middle school and high school)
- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (high school and older)
8. Families tell stories in many ways. Thanksgivukkah is a powerful opportunity to share some of those stores. Encourage family members to talk about what holidays were like when they were growing up. Ask the children to tell their favorite holiday story and way.
Unlike Thanksgivukkah, giving should occur more than once every 70,000 years. Take this opportunity to make a long-term commitment by setting out a course for charitable giving and volunteerism for you and your family.
Adapted from this article by Stefanie Zelkind of the Jewish Teen Funders Network.