Hanukkah in New Haven: Light Up Our Community

By Stacey Battat

PJ Library Professional | pjlibrary@jewishnewhaven.org

The PJ Library book, “Gracie’s Night: A Hanukkah Story,” by Lynn Taylor Gordon, is about a sweet Hanukkah mitzvah for the homeless. It closes with a lovely poem:

Become Someone’s Miracle; be someone’s light! Give up just one gift on one Hanukkah night. Someone in need could be waiting for you. Gracie would say “it’s the right thing to do!”

For many families, particularly with young children, materialism becomes a concern during Hanukkah. They are often showered with gifts from parents, grandparents and other places.

Many parents look for alternatives such as books or items for warmth (socks, pajamas) to avoid over-indulging their children.

In our family, once the kids were old enough, we would choose a night – particularly if Christmas fell during Hanukkah – to work at a soup kitchen or serve Christmas dinner, visit a hospital, or TowerOne/Tower East. These opportunities to read or sing with the infirmed or elderly added another dimension to their holiday observance. A number of Jewish communities across the United States have celebrated similarly, calling it “The Fifth Night,” whereby Jews young and old donate a night of Hanukkah gifts to a chosen charity.

As we move into the season of giving, we can all consider a “Fifth Night” opportunity to be “someone’s light.”

We can teach our children to expand our Jewish community light by inviting their friends, especially those who may have a Jewish connection, to partake in these efforts. PJ Library, as well as the many Jewish organizations across Greater New Haven, will offer many moments for group togetherness. Enjoy one of these, or create your own at home for Hanukkah! As we enter a season with less natural light, think about the many resources we have to offer, and help spread the giving intention by inviting others into our homes, hearts, and customs to make the world a brighter place.


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