Catching a gimel on the river

I'm pretty sure that my favorite story of this Hanukkah season was this one from Good Morning America:

For centuries, the Dreidel game has been a Hanukkah tradition. The simple gambling game remains a fixture at Hanukkah parties, but today it's often more decoration than entertainment - a party favor and not a party favorite.

Fed up with Dreidel's dryness, some Jewish entrepreneurs are putting a new spin on the tradition for modern times.

One of the leaders of this Dreidel renaissance is Jennie Rivlin Roberts, 38, an industrial psychologist turned entrepreneur from Atlanta, Ga.

"Regular Dreidel is a pretty boring game, says Roberts. "And it's got to the point where not only do Jewish people know that Dreidel is a boring game, but everyone knows Dreidel is a boring game."

Roberts is the inventor of No Limit Texas Dreidel, a game that combines regular Dreidel with no limit Texas Hold'em poker.

You can watch the full video here. It features another game called Major League Dreidel where you compete in the Spinagogue for who can spin the dreidel the longest. Finally some upgrades to religious gambling games!

But perhaps you're looking for more substance in your Hanukkah coverage. If so, you'll likely enjoy this St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported column from Tim Townsend. Earlier this week, Terry had noted that many Hanukkah reports never discuss "what Hanukkah is or why it is supposed to matter." Townsend doesn't have that problem. He begins with a local angle of how Jews are marking the minor season in the St. Louis area:

While it's much less important to the Jewish calendar than Passover, Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, Hanukkah triggers an annual tension among many American Jews: Should the holiday be elevated in importance to "compete" with Christmas, or should it be played down so that it does not become something it's not -- the Jewish Christmas?

Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that occurred in the second century B.C., after the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple had been made into a pagan shrine by the Syrian Greeks. After it was recaptured by Judah the Maccabee, a day's worth of oil used to light the rededication menorah lasted for eight days.

Hanukkah is a public festival, and hanukkiah, or Hanukkah menorahs, are typically placed in windows. Each night, another candle is lit to commemorate yet another day of the miracle of the oil.

"The public part of this holiday is its essence," said Rabbi Shmuel Kay, Epstein Academy's head of school. "We are instructed to 'spread the miracle.'"

A few days ago a commenter suggested that reporters need not mention the oil with every reference to Hanukkah. That's certainly true, but any decent exploration of the holiday should explain its basis and meaning. While people who read this site might have fairly advanced religious knowledge, many average readers or news consumers could use some refreshers.

The column engages the difficulty Jews have during this time of year but also offers solutions for parents. One author says that many Jewish educators advise parents of Jewish children to tell them that Christmas is a party but someone else's party, just like a friend's birthday party.

Or if that's all too serious, you can simply watch this cartoon video of Neil Diamond covering Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah" song.

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