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||הַדְלָקַת נֵרוֹת|
|Chag Urim||The Festival of Lights||חַג אוּרִים|
|Al HaNissim||“About the Miracles” – Prayer added to the Amidah prayer and Birkat Hamazon||עַל הַנִּסִּים|
|Maoz Tzur||“Rock of Ages” – song traditionally sung after candlelighting||מָעוֹז צוּר|
|HaNerot Hallalu||“These Candles” – a song traditionally sung while lighting the Chanukah candles||הַנֵּרוֹת הַלָּלוּ|
|Demei Chanukah||Chanukah “money” (can mean gelt, money, or gifts)||דְּמֵי חֲנֻכָּה|
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
CHANUKAH ACTIVITIES FROM THE LOOKSTEIN CENTER
Judah the Maccabee Video – This video and classroom discussion questions review the role of Judah the Maccabee and his family in the Chanukah story.
Chanukah Padlet: How We Count – This collaborative bulletin board teaches students about the order of candle lighting on Chanukah.
Chanukah Mystery – This interactive presentation explores the laws of lighting the chanukiah.
Chanukah Letter from Moscow – This lesson plan explores the difficulty that Soviet Jews faced in expressing their religious beliefs. By The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
Chanukah and Soviet Jewry – This lesson plan explores how Chanukah was celebrated by Soviet Jewry. By The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
Winter Holidays and Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union – This lesson plan reviews the connection between winter holidays and Jewish values. By The Lookstein Center’s Refusenik Project.
CHANUKAH LESSON PLANS AND ACTIVITIES
My Menorah Online Candle Lighting Game – This interactive game teaches young students the order and process of candle lighting. By Jewish Interactive.
Virtual Candle Lighting – This simple online candle lighting provides an interactive experience for students. By The Virtual Menorah.
Online Dreidel Competition – This interactive dreidel-playing game can be played by individuals or multiple players. By ABCYA.
Chanukah Word Search with Hebrew Vocabulary – This printable word search activity can enhance students’ Hebrew vocabulary. By The Lookstein Center.
Chanukah Word Search with English Vocabulary – This printable word search activity reinforces Chanukah terminology for students. By The Lookstein Center.
Light Up Africa – This lesson plan explores Chanukah and Israel’s role in helping African communities. By Jewish Heart of Africa.
Chanukah Activities – This collection includes videos, coloring pages, lessons, and more. By the Israel Forever Foundation.
Chanukah Printable Activities – These printable pages 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.
Maccabi Treaures in the Old City – This video lesson from Olam Shalem explores Chanukah antiquities in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Figure of the Maccabi – Activism in Jewish Society – This lesson plan from Olam Shalem analyzes the Maccabis and modern Jewish activists.
Chanukah Reflection Questions – These Chanukah resources are designed to enhance your Chanukah and inspire others to action. By Areyvut.
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.
A Star Wars Chanukah – A musical parody song about the messages of Chanukah, by Six13.
Elton Johnukah – A musical parody tribute about the Chanukah story, by Six13.
Pan Fry – A modern musical parody song about Chanukah traditions, by the Maccabeats.
Chanukah Spotify Playlist – A fun mix of traditional Chanukah Songs and modern Chanukah mashups, compiled by Rabbi Yael Buechler at The Leffell School.
Animate Your Family’s Chanukah – A library of educational animated Chanukah videos highlighting inspiring themes and beloved stories, by Lishi’s Love Foundation.
Chanukah TEXTS, ARTICLES, AND PLAYS
Eight Tales for Eight Nights – An exploratory composition of stories, written by Peninnah Schram.
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.
Late Lighting of Chanukah Lights – An article in Peninei Torah (page 31), a collection of thought-provoking articles on Gemara study, by Chaim Jachter.
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.