The winners are...
The year 2020 presented us with difficult challenges in the work of students with the children in the neighborhoods. We were determined to continue to address these children, especially at a time when schools were not operating, and children were spending long days at home in front of the computer or phone. Some did not connect to distance learning at all and felt very lonely.
The meetings in small groups - 4 children and a student - took place starting in mid-September and the children did not miss a single meeting. They needed face-to-face activities, meetings with friends, outdoor activities, help with studies. Our students were, for them, the most normal and the only routine that could be relied on.
In preparation for Hanukkah, we wanted to have activities for all the children of the project in the Sela and Neot Shaked neighborhoods but, because of the Corona guidelines, it was not possible to gather more than 10 people in a closed room.
In meetings with the students, we held a discussion a month before Hanukkah, and we came up with ideas for joint activities that would allow the children to feel part of the greater Students Build a Community and encourage them to have a special activity for Hanukkah.
We decided to hold a competition to create group menorahs. The directive was that the menorahs should be made from recycled materials only and the extra equipment such as ornaments, paints, brushes, etc., would be available to each group.
Each group designed its menorah according to the materials they found in recycled bottle facilities, garden waste collection areas and recycled cardboard and disposable containers, and kept its idea for the menorah a secret until it was presented at a neighborhood Zoom event.
Sela children presented the menorahs on 14/12/2020 and Neot Shaked children on 17/12/20. Each Zoom event was attended by a judging panel of the project coordinators and ESRA volunteers.
All the children arrived an hour earlier at the student apartments, set the festive table with refreshments and waited for the big moment.
When the Zoom event opened, there was a pre-set schedule for the presentation of the menorahs. One of the children in each group presented the menorah, explained what materials it was made of, what was the inspiration for its creation and some of the children read beautiful Hanukkah stories.
After presenting their menorahs, the students sent a picture of the menorah to the neighborhood WhatsApp group, to allow the judging panel to see the menorahs again before making a decision.
At the end of the event, one of the groups led the blessing on the candles, and all the groups lit candles and sang Hanukkah songs together.
In each neighborhood we chose one winning menorah and another "favorite of the crowd" menorah.
In a not-so-simple pandemic year in which there were few joys, it was one of those moments where we felt as one united community, a moment of light and happiness, of partnership and creativity.
There is no doubt that we will remember Hanukkah 2020 as a point of light for many years.
Tamar Tal Bloom is the coordinator of Students Build a Community in Netanya.