Julia Katsovich, 19, a senior at Cheshire High School, has been coordinating Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven’s Annual Hanukkah Gift Giving Program for the last three years. Here she shares her experience working on this labor of love for the community:
by Julia Katsovich
for Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven
Hanukkah is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. My parents often tell me a story of when I was two years old; when they lit the candles of the hanukkiah, I started singing “Happy Birthday.” In my mind, Hanukkah was the next best thing to my birthday - lighting candles and getting presents. 17 years later, I still love Hanukkah, but nowadays, it’s less about getting presents and more about giving.
For the past three years, I’ve had the honor of organizing the Annual Hanukkah Basket Program at Temple Emanuel. In this event, the whole Temple Emanuel community, young and old, comes together to assemble holiday baskets for those in need. Temple members donate items such as toys, games, and books for kids, as well as personal care items and gift cards for teens and adults.
One Sunday in December (Dec. 16 this year), we put all the items out on tables and the kids “go shopping” by assembling gift baskets for children of certain age, based on information provided ahead of time by the agencies who help us distribute the gifts to their clients. Additionally, the children personalize the gifts by making holiday cards and putting them inside the baskets.
These baskets are donated to various organizations such as Jewish Family Service, Fair Haven, ‘r Kids, and Fellowship Place. I am proud to say that we donate over 100 baskets every year. This wonderful event teaches the children of Temple Emanuel that Hanukkah is just as much about giving as it is about getting presents.
The whole community gets involved for this event and, in my opinion, it is a prime example of tikkun olam working to repair the world, one basket at a time.