Chanukah: Giving First, Latkes Later

We take a break from grating onions and potatoes for the latkes to remind you that Chanukah is about more than presents and fried foods. Honest. The holiday is actually a great time to create new giving rituals with your family. And there will be plenty of latkes ready for when you’re done.

One idea that caught our eye came from Sue Schwartzman, Director of Philanthropic Education at the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. It’s a way to put some of those holiday solicitations to good use rather than consign them to the recycle bin. And it’s a win-win for your family and the groups looking for help.

You can adapt to your needs, but Sue suggests giving each child an envelope with five $20 bills. On the dinner table are requests for donations from various groups and causes. The kids place their money next to organizations they want to support.

After having a discussion with the kids about the groups, encourage them to go to their rooms and get any personal funds they wish to add to the $100 they’ve been given. Tell them you’ll match whatever they give 10:1. Knowing you support their decisions can make giving as much fun for your children as it will be meaningful for them and the recipients.

Stefanie Zelkind, Director of the Jewish Teen Funders Network, has also been thinking about giving rituals. She recently wrote about family values-based activities for the Thanksgivukkah holiday mash-up, none of which thankfully include making a menurkey.

Among Stefanie’s great ideas is to dedicate each night of Chanukah to an organization that inspires you. After you light the candles, talk about the organization’s work. Visit its website together or read a brochure, then make a donation to support the organization’s efforts.

For families whose tradition is to give a present each night, dedicate one night to give to others. Take them to the mall so they can buy a toy to donate to a local drive. It could be the best gift your children never get.

You can read all eight—it is Chanukah, after all—of Stefanie’s giving rituals here.

However you celebrate the holiday—Chag Sameach!