SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Chanukah, the celebration of lights, will begin tomorrow evening. While it is normally a time for family and togetherness, every Jewish family is having to make changes to their plans this year because of the pandemic. However, one Valley school is making it work by getting creative to bring their community together during this special time of year.
Staff at Pardes Jewish Day School in Scottsdale realized very quickly that their celebration this year would be very different than those of the past.
“Normally, we’d have an 800-person audience Chanukah show that we put on, the entire school does, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Every class, every student. And, we’re not able to do that,” said Head of School, Peter Gordon.
It was a disappointment for students, teachers, and staff who were all looking forward to the big annual event. However, that did not cause the school to cancel its entire celebration. They started searching for a way to come together as a community.
“When we knew that the struggle has been mostly about the ability for us to kind of maintain our semblance of community... How we are continuing to formulate the essence of what we truly believe is the most important part of our school, which is our community,” explains Gordon.
So, the administration came up with the great idea: 8 Fun-Filled Nights of Chanukah. As an all-virtual event, it gives the school the ability to safely get all students, those going to class in-person and those still online, to come together with their families and still enjoy the holiday.
Each night, the school is working with different clergy members to light the candles as well as put on fun activities. That includes art projects, singing songs, and even making origami stars. The only in-person event is their Chanukah drive-thru celebration where students can pick up treats and toys.
It is a bright spot in a tough time for many families that is also lifting spirits this holiday season.
“In this time, when there seems to be so much that we’re not able to do,” Gordon explains, “that the ability for Pardes to be able to provide this for the students and the families cannot be overstated. It is, just, we are so blessed and so happy and honored to be able to do it and share it.”