Jay Hait
American Israeli Family Law Attorney

The challenge of Hanukkah for divorced dads

photo credit pexels-Elly
photo credit-pexels-Elly

We’re deep into one of the most widely celebrated holidays amongst the Jewish people. But the pandemic has altered the way we’ll celebrate this year. And the restrictions against family gatherings have added to the challenge of Hanukkah for divorced dads.

Fathers are crucial for a kid’s development

My dad carried me, sleeping, from the back seat of the car and tucked me safely in my bed, more times than I can count. He pulled me up the snow covered hill over and over again so I could spend the afternoon sledding. He ran beside my wobbly bicycle, grasping the back of my seat until I could soar down the street unassisted. And I lit the menorah myself for the first time with my father standing guard, ready to step in if I needed him. I felt protected, special and important growing up.

Men and women parent differently. But society has suffered from the misconception that mothers play a more significant role in raising a child than fathers. There are countless studies showing that a father’s influence and involvement in their kids’ lives is just as crucial for healthy development as the mother’s. Kids really suffer when they don’t have a relationship with a loving father.

It’s sad that fathers often don’t feel secure about the significance of their role in their children’s lives. That being said, THE biggest fear for men considering divorce is that the relationship with their kids will be damaged. And their fear is justified.

The custody laws in Israel

Custody laws in most western countries (including Israel) have been historically based on the assumption that the mother is the ‘better’ parent and should be the primary caregiver. But since 2017, the Israeli courts have begun to recognize that a father’s role has a deeper significance in his children’s’ lives. Good news for dads – more and more  joint and full custody cases are being heard.

Whether one gets divorced out of court with a mediated agreement or a court hears a custody case, the decision is always made “in the best interests of the children.” While we still have a long way to go, a father being more involved in his child’s life is now recognized as in the child’s best interest.

Making new Hanukkah traditions

Divorced dads have often relied on their extended family during Hanukkah to help bring a festive feel with meals and parties and presents. But gathering with grandparents and extended family could be dangerous because of the pandemic. So instead of trying to duplicate past Hanukkah celebrations. Start new ones.

  • Cook a meal together and turn it into a cooking show.
    Choose a menu, find the recipes, shop for ingredients and film the experience. It will be fun to have a video of each year as the kids get older.
  • Find Hanukkah themed movies
    There are some great Hanukkah movies that you probably remember from your own childhood that you could watch together with your kids.

The challenge of Hanukkah for divorced dads is to help kids feel secure and safe. Making new family traditions shared just with Dad, will strengthen the bond and make wonderful memories to look back on.

About the Author
Soon after returning to Israel with his family fom a 14 year hiatus in the US, American born and bred attorney Jay Hait went through a vicious divorce exposing him to the dark side of family law in Israel. When it was all over and he came out with custody over his young children, Jay switched from corporate to family law because he knew that there had to be a better way -even within the confines of the Israeli legal system.
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