Celebrating Hanukkah in a Christian community

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Have you ever thought about what it would be like raising a child of a different faith in a predominantly Christian community during a time of year where a Christian holiday is celebrated? 

Dganit Herzig Slovik and her 10-year-old twin boys are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah. Dganit moved to Utah from Israel where the predominant religion was Judaism.

I asked Dganit what it was like during the winter holiday season sending her children to public school? She said her children’s teacher and classmates have been accepting but says this is not always the case. 

“My children’s school, I believe is very different than most schools in Utah. It is a public school, but they make a very genuine effort to make everyone feel included,” Dganit says. 

She says her school calls the school program the “Winter Program” instead of “Christmas Program” and acknowledges her children’s faith this time of year. 

Dganit says it isn’t uncommon for community members to know little about Hanukkah; She says they don’t mean to exclude, and from her own experiences has learned people don’t want to offend so they don’t include. 

 “I would suggest that you go and speak to your teacher, because sometimes it’s not a lack of will, it’s just a lack of knowledge.” 

She says it’s easy to single out a child without knowing it. She recommends coming into the classroom and teaching your child’s classmates about your traditions through songs or activities.  

Dganit says the ultimate goal at the end of the day is protecting our children. 

“It does create an uncomfortable situation for a child feeling either he’s forced to do something that doesn’t feel right to him, or he needs to exclude himself from an activity and then feel like he’s the only kid in the classroom that’s different.” 

Dganit says she remembers growing up in Israel and seeing and every now and then seeing Christian Christmas symbols in her community and marveling at its beauty. 

When she walks around here she says she wishes there were more Hanukkah symbols for others to see their beauty. 

“When they’re the only thing you see all around you feel like you’re not represented and that who you are is not a part of the community that you’re living in.”

The Jewish Community Center of Salt Lake City invited anyone looking for a place to go to join then this Hanukkah. To learn more click here.

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