Below is a collection of Chanukah lesson plans, interactive tools, and articles created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
CHANUKAH HOLIDAY OVERVIEW
- What: Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, after a battle fought between Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees and the Seleucid (Syrian-Greek) army. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.
- When: Chanukah is celebrated for eight days, beginning at nightfall of the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.
- Why: In the second century BCE, the Land of Israel was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who forced the people of Israel to accept Greek beliefs and culture over the Torah and who attempted to desecrate the Temple. A rebel army called the Maccabees defeated the Seleucids, drove them out of Jerusalem, and rededicated the Temple to the service of God. In this rededication, the people of Israel attempted to light the Temple’s Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum). They found only a single jug of olive oil that could be used, and miraculously, this small quantity of oil managed to keep the Menorah lit for eight full days. To commemorate and publicize the miracle of the defeat against the Seleucids as well as the miracle of the oil, the sages instituted the holiday of Chanukah.
- How: To commemorate the miracle of the oil, a chanukiah is lit for each of the eight nights of Chanukah. The chanukiah holds nine candles, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to light the other eight lights. On the first night, we light just one candle. On the second night, an additional flame is lit. By the eighth night of Chanukah, all eight candles are lit. Special blessings are recited along with the candle lighting each night, and traditional songs are sung afterward. Chanukiot should be displayed publicly, in the doorway or window of a home or synagogue, to help “publicize the miracle” of the holiday. In addition, the Hallel prayer is added to daily prayers for all eight days of Chanukah, and Al HaNissim is added to the daily Amidah and Birkat Hamazon. There is a custom to oik-fried foods, such as doughnuts and latkes during Chanukah, as a reminder of the miracle of the oil.
Seven-candle candelabra in the Temple
Nine-candle candelabra used today to celebrate Chanukah
|Hadlakat Nerot||Candle lighting||הדלקת נרות|
|Chag Urim||The Festival of Lights||חג אורים|
|Al HaNissim||“About the Miracles” – Prayer added to the Amidah prayer and Birkat Hamazon||על הניסים|
|Maoz Tzur||“Rock of Ages” – song traditionally sung after candle lighting||מעוז צור|
|HaNerot Hallalu||“These Candles” – song traditionally sung while lighting the Chanukah candles||הנרות הללו|
|Demei Chanukah||Chanukah “money” (can mean gelt, money, or gifts)||דמי חנוכה|
CHANUKAH EDUCATIONAL THEMES
- Light and darkness
- Spiritual resistance vs. physical resistance
- Strength in difficult times
- Resilience and hope
- Joy and togetherness
- Publicizing miracles
- Jewish pride
**Need lessons for distance learning? Look for the icon below. **
Chanukah Padlet: How We Count – a collaborative bulletin board for students to learn about the order of candle lighting on Chanukah, by The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Flipgrids – collaborative video discussions for students to share their Chanukah holiday experiences, by The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Edpuzzle– an interactive video presentation about the meaning of Chanukah by The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Mystery – an interactive presentation that explores the laws of lighting the chanukiah, by The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Letter from Moscow – a lesson plan which explores the difficulty that Soviet Jews faced in expressing their religious beliefs, by The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
Chanukah and Soviet Jewry – a lesson plan which explores how Chanukah was celebrated by Soviet Jewry, by The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
Winter Holidays and Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union – a lesson plan about the connection between winter holidays and Jewish values, by The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
My Menorah Online Candle Lighting Game – an interactive game that teaches young students the order and process of candle lighting, by Jewish Interactive.
Virtual Candle Lighting – a simple online candle lighting experience, by The Virtual Menorah.
Online Dreidel Competition – an interactive dreidel playing game, for individuals or multiple players, by ABCYA.
Chanukah Word Search with Hebrew Vocabulary – a printable word search activity to enhance Hebrew vocabulary, by The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Word Search with English Vocabulary – a printable word search activity to reinforce Chanukah terminology for students, by The Lookstein Center.
Light Up Africa – a lesson plan about Chanukah and Israel’s role in helping African communities, by Jewish Heart of Africa.
Chanukah Activities – a collection of videos, coloring pages, lessons, and more, by the Israel Forever Foundation.
Chanukah Printable Activities – printable pages that explore the symbols and themes of Chanukah by the National Library of Israel.
Chanukah Video Clips – These short animated video clips from Chanukah Unites also include discussion questions.
Chanukah Downloadable Resources – These discussion questions, games, and more from Areyvut are all available for free download.
Chanukah videos and songs
Bohemian Chanukah – a musical adaptation of the Chanukah story, by Six13.
The Hanukkah Story for Kids: Maccabees, Miracles, and Dreidels – an animated explanation of Chanukah basics for younger students, by Bimbam.
The Chanukah Shaboom! Special- Great Miracles – an animated Chanukah story for younger students, by Bimbam.
Learn to Light the Chanukah Candles with Kids – singalong video of Chanukah candle lighting blessing by Bimbam.
What is Hanukkah? – a video explanation of Chanukah basics for older students, by Bimbam.
Hanukkah – Mayim Bialik – a video explanation of Chanukah basics, by Mayim Bialik.
How to Cook Latkes for Hanukkah – a latke making video recipe and explanation, by Mayim Bialik.
Chanukah Medley – an animated video singalong (in Hebrew), by Micha Gamerman.
Chanukah Piyutim – a collection of Chanukah songs with audio and lyrics (in Hebrew), by Piyut.org.il.
A Star Wars Chanukah – a musical parody by Six13.
Pan Fry – a modern musical parody by the Maccabeats.
Chanukah texts AND ARTICLES
Megilat Antiochus – the complete text of the second-century retelling of the Chanukah story, on Sefaria.
Sefer Maccabim I and Sefer Maccabim II – the complete text of the Apocryphal books, on Sefaria.
The Menorah: A Jewish Symbol – an educational resource guide for the classroom, by Hadassah Levy.
The Obligation of Women in Lighting Chanukah Candles – a Hebrew discussion of women’s roles and obligations on Chanukah, by Aharon Lichtenstein.
The Miracle of the Lights – a discussion of the miracles of Chanukah, by Yair Kahn.
Late Lighting of Chanukah Lights – an article in Peninei Torah (page 31), a collection of thought-provoking articles on Gemara study, by Chaim Jachter.
Classroom Chanukah Plays
Chanukah Play by Amihai Bannett – a humorous play in which ES/MS students relay the miracle of Chanukah as a breaking news broadcast from the Torah News Network.
“The Chanukah Play” by Mike Freedman of ICTeachers– a three-page play that tells the story of the Chanukah miracle.
Hanukkah, Shmanukkah! – A Reader’s Theater Script Adapted by the Story by Esme Raji Codell – a humorous, modern script that weaves together the story of Chanukah and the American dream.