The Community’s Chanukiah

Nothing compares to the electric energy on the steps of SAR as students and faculty prepare to light the chanukiah each afternoon during Chanukah. The special songs, the buzz of excited chatter about all of the fun events of that day, and the joy and dancing yet to come, ignite the space. In the fall of 2012, Morah Beth Pepper had a vision of a schoolwide chanukiah building project to further enhance the holiday.  She could never have imagined the final result - executed by parent volunteers, Donna Salamon and Rena Rosen - five larger than life, kosher, functioning, four-dimensional Chanukiyot.

Grades 1 through 5 participated in this beautiful, collaborative artistic effort. Each grade had its own theme and created its own Chanukiyah. The Chanukiyot portray various symbols and stories relevant to the concepts of Chanukah. First Grade had the Symbols of Chanukah, Second Grade had the Story of Chanukah, Third Grade had “Ner Li, Ner Li, Ner Li Dakik,” Candles and Light throughout the World, Fourth Grade had Kedusha, “Hanerot Halalu KODESH hem,” and Fifth Grade,“Kol Echad hu or katan v’kulanu or eitan,” Every one of us is a small light and together we are a strong light.

Each class was responsible for the components of one side of their grade’s Chanukiyah. Class by class, students streamed into the gym to work on their components. They were given guiding questions, parameters of what they were designing, and each student contributed his or her element to what would become their class’s final artwork. As the projects came together, students were awed by how the branches could spin, each side revealing a piece of a different thematic image. The Chanukiyot were something special to see!  

What made them even more unique and meaningful was the spirit of achdut that the Chanukiot represented. Within our school, the students marveled at what their collaboration had produced - each student was able to see his/her small contribution to a project whose sum was truly greater than its parts. But also their magic travelled beyond the walls (or no walls) of SAR. The project came immediately on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, when, in the wake of the storm, local shuls and institutions opened their doors to our students until SAR’s power returned. The completed Chanukiyot were presented as gifts to Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR), Young Israel Ohab Zedek (YIOZ), Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR), and Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) in recognition of their hospitality. On that Shabbat Chanukah, the beautiful work of our students was displayed in shuls throughout Riverdale, uniting us all as one community.