I was excited to join the Sephardic educators conference led by Rabbi Hayyim Angel, theNational Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. It was an opportunity for me to learn from other educators great tools and resources to help bring Sephardic culture, customs and laws to the classroom. The wide range of presentations touched upon different subjects and provided the space for great conversations. I was able to use some of what I learned to teach the students a Chanukah lesson that infused Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs.
I wanted to teach Chanukah differently than in the past. Previously, when teaching Chanukah, I would focus on halachot and some customs but this year I was able to utilize Rabbi Acoca’s excellent presentation, and incorporate music in the lesson. Rabbi Acoca presented Rabbi David Bauzaglo’s “Am Ne’emani” song and explained a couple of the stanzas. He showed that besides for the catchy tune, the beauty of the song is hidden in the lyrics. In this song, Rabbi Bauzaglo masterfully intertwined the story of Chanukah with halachot in a beautiful and catchy tune. I introduced the song to the students and emphasized the impact that music can have in our tradition. I taught them a couple of stanzas and had them look for the parallels or references to Chanukah. The students were so excited to learn a new Chanukah song other than Maoz Tzur and hoped to also learn and understand the Maoz Tzur. We practiced the song and the voices of the students can be heard in the halls.
The class then shifted from Chanukah to understanding the composer and his background. I taught a bit about Rabbi Bauzaglo’s life and about Moroccan music. We listened to a few other pieces from him and tried to compare it to Syrian music. I then taught the students traditional Chanukah foods and how every community had their variation of sufganyot and latkes
The last part of the lesson focused on some the halachic differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. Using Rabbi Cohen’s halachic guide, the students learned about “ner ish u’beto” and how they can be involved in the mitzvah, even though they are not lighting their own menorah. Many of the Sephardic students didn’t even know that there was a difference in customs!
All the students gained from my Chanukah presentation. The Sephardic students felt a sense of pride and excitement and the Ashkenazi students learned about other cultures. I intend to continue utilizing the resources from the conference to further enhance my classroom and the culture of the school.