Weekly Reader: Hanukkah Highlights

Is it just me or does Hanukkah fall at a perfect time this year? While the rest of the world slows down ahead of Christmas and New Year’s, and just as we head into the winter solstice, we get to celebrate our festival of lights. Jewish communities around the world have all celebrated Hanukkah with their own traditions, and Yiddish-speaking Jews are obviously no exception. Here are some of our favorite Hanukkah stories, songs, games, and food-related content that we’ve collected over the years. A freylekhn khanike to you all!

—Ezra Glinter

Drey Dreydele

Blue dreydel with beige accents

Everybody knows how to play dreydl, but here’s a different kind of dreydl game. Enjoy this festive song by Moyshe Oysher, but listen carefully—some of the words are missing from the lyrics. Once you’ve figured out what the words are, you can type them in. Get in the Hanukkah spirit and improve your Yiddish at the same time!


Listen to Moyshe Oysher’s “Drey dreydele” and fill in the blanks

Hanukkah Memories

Woman with short hair and green sweatshirt in front of dark background

Everyone has a favorite Hanukkah memory, whether it’s from childhood, adulthood, or any other part of life. Here at the Yiddish Book Center, the Wexler Oral History Project has been busy collecting those memories and has assembled all of the Hanukkah-related ones into one place for your enjoyment.

Watch a collection of Hanukkah highlights from the Wexler Oral History Project

The Meaning of Hanukkah

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Holiday stories were a tradition in Yiddish literature. Audiences looked forward to reading the latest tale by their favorite writer in the Yiddish newspaper. The stories marked the passage of time, permanence and change, the eternal and the transitory. This story by the “grandfather” of Yiddish literature, Mendele Moykher-Sforim, earnestly interrogates a philosophical, religious question and comes to a surprising conclusion.


Read “What’s the Meaning of Hanukkah?” by Mendele Moykher-Sforim

A Menorah by Any Other Name

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A menorah—or menoyre, in Yiddish pronunciation—is not a Hanukkah candelabrum. Not in Yiddish, at least. Nor in modern Israeli Hebrew. In Yiddish, menoyre is the term for the biblical seven-branched candelabrum originally housed in the Holy Temple—or its likeness, as is often found decoratively in synagogues or as the emblem of the State of Israel. How, then, did the word come to be associated with the holder of the Hanukkah candles? The answer might have something to do not with Yiddish or Hebrew but rather with the Sephardic language of Ladino.

Read about the history of the menorah

Stories and Sufganiyot

Photographs of different foods on cookbook cover

Like every Jewish holiday, Hanukkah is all about the food. In this episode of The Shmooze podcast Tina Wasserman, author of Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora and Entree to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking and Kitchen Conversations with Children, discusses some traditional Hanukkah recipes and the histories behind them.


Listen to Tina Wasserman talk about Hanukkah foods