a pre- Chanukah activity in Novi Sad!
Yesterday evening I traveled to Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia, located in a northern region set on the Danube River. The Jewish community in Novi Sad is small in number but strong in spirit and inspiration. Communities in Serbia have built their kids programs based on an informal education model, so developing an activity allowed me to tap my creativity and share what I love best, baking!
With 16 kids from ages 0 to 15, some mothers, and the director of the Kids programs and her daughter, we taught the children the four different Hebrew letters on the Dreidel and explained their meaning for playing the game Dreidel. We also had the older kids explain to the younger kids the story of Chanukah and the meaning behind Nes Gadol Hayah Sham. Then we gave each group the materials to make cookie dough that they could then use to shape in the form of Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hei, & Shin. We did not foresee that when the cookies would come out of the oven, they would have all melted together!
Everyone had a great time! Even the mothers, who had initially sat back, slowly came to the group and stated to participate. It turned out that they had crazy cookie shaping skills to offer us! It was truly a wonderful experience for me. Having worked in Jewish communities for over two years now in Germany and most recently in Serbia, I’ve never walked into a community blindly and alone before and been immediately welcomed.
The community holds weekly kids program from 5pm to 7pm, every Sunday evening. It is obvious that the families who come really care about their children’s Jewish identity as I am sure this is not the most convenient time as Sunday evening the week is ending and everything for the next week has already started to arrive in full force. In Serbia Jews make an active decision to be Jewish every day, every week and every year. There is not the structure or institutions in place that we are so familiar with in the US, which allow us to be Jewish in all aspect of our life and in society, with very little effort or thought required. Although I have a lot to give this year, I also have a lot to learn.
More to come on Chanukah events from Serbia!