SCoJeC’s Highlands and Islands volunteer ambassador, Linda Martin, and our Education and Community Development officer, Zoe Jacobs, lit Chanukah candles far more than eight times this year!
In a trip combining educational visits and Chanukah parties, Zoe and Linda began in Dunblane, running eight sessions about Chanukah and Shabbat for pupils at Newton Primary School. Over two days they explored the meaning and importance of Shabbat and how it is kept by different Jews, and told the story of Chanukah, the miracle of the oil, and the celebrations that go on today. Perhaps it is no surprise that the tasty treats from each session – challah and doughnuts – were some of the pupils’ favourite moments.
Children weren’t the only ones to enjoy our doughnuts: Alloa Town Hall was once again the venue of a Chanukah party, a wonderful spread of bagels, doughnuts, and latkes, which as usual arrived in our travellers’ suitcases! We were pleased to welcome new members from the surrounding area among the dozen attending the party who had previously been isolated from local Jewish life. A successful game of dreidel meant the youngest guest won a hoard of chocolate Chanukah Gelt, while the adults discussed the Scottish Government's Fairer Scotland proposals, and enjoyed the lights of the chanukiah.
The following day our team visited another two schools, this time near Fort William. Again focusing on Chanukah for the older children and Shabbat for the younger ones, we ran a further four sessions for Banavie Primary School and Spean Bridge Primary School. Highlights included playdough challot, the importance of peace, laying a Shabbat table, playing dreidel, how a small army can beat a big army, and what faith means in difficult times.
That evening, more than a dozen people braved horrendous weather to celebrate Chanukah at the Lochaber Yacht Club – a delightful venue complete with log fire. Participants, including people from the Ardnamurchan peninsula and Oban, enjoyed the warm atmosphere, and sharing candle lighting, traditional food, songs, story, and games. It was a lovely ending to a rather exhausting trip around the country.
Having told the Chanukah story 12 times in 3 days to a total of 360 captivated people, Zoe said: “I now realise quite how wonderful a story it is, and I’ll be glad of these memories the next time I get to tell it – though my voice could do with a little rest first!” One of the participants in Alloa told us: “The latkes were particularly awesome! Awesome job and amazing effort made by Linda and Zoe. Zoe did an amazing job of telling the Chanukah story”, so she obviously didn’t get jaded as the week wore on!
During the week, the community in Inverness also held a Chanukah celebration, with guests from as far afield as Gairloch and Findhorn enjoying the latkes, doughnuts, and other Chanukah goodies that Fiona Frank, SCoJeC’s Projects and Outreach manager, had arranged for them.
In Dundee, a record number of members of the Tayside and Fife Jewish community came to the join the party and join in a new activity for SCoJeC: Glasgow-based Israeli artist Roi Carmeli led a Chanukah-themed lino-cutting workshop, working with the party-goers to make prints of chanukiot, dreidels, and jugs of oil. One of the participants commented, “The best part was that people came, more than expected and more than usual, it was good to celebrate the holiday with others.”
We were also delighted to participate in the public lighting of a chanukiah in the Scottish Parliament, hosted by the Presiding Officer, who lit a candle. And the First Minister delivered on her promise to us that she would demonstrate the support of the Scottish Government for the Jewish Community by participating in communal activities, by joining Glasgow’s communal Chanukah celebration at Calderwood Lodge Primary School and lighting a candle.