The word Hanukkah stems from the three-letter root word ח*נ*כ, meaning dedication. As we prepare for the Festival of Lights this week, we recall the Maccabees’ rededication of the Temple following the defeat of Antiochus’ Seleucid army that desecrated it.
But another word built on the same root is, חנוך, education.
When it comes to Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah project, the word couldn’t be more appropriate. At our Meir Shfeyah, Hadassah Neurim, and Ramat Hadassah Szold youth villages, our staff and faculty are dedicated to providing at-risk and immigrant students with many aspects of education.
Students get such outstanding academic education at Meir Shfeyah that the village has garnered awards for achievement from Israel’s Ministry of Education. In fact, the program there is so good that parents from neighboring Zichron Ya’akov actually petitioned the government to allow their children to attend the high school in the village.
And young immigrants at Hadassah Neurim have competed – and placed — in the World Robotics Competitions held in the United States.
Although some of our students have gone on to careers in law, medicine, and physics following their military service, not every student will go to university. So, outside of academics, we give our students vocational training. Through hands-on experience, they learn high-tech auto mechanics (Neurim’s program is so good that the village has a contract with the IDF); High-tech precision tool-making (Ramat Hadassah Szold); and agriculture, wine-making, and herbal beauty product production (Meir Shfeyah).
But most important of all, we dedicate ourselves to healing. Many, many of our children come to us from homes riven with poverty, abuse, and neglect, while a full third come to us alone from places in the FSU that are no longer safe for Jews. Our therapeutic programs are second to none in providing support, structure, and caring.
So, when I light my hanukkiah this year, I’ll dedicate an extra bracha for child rescue.