Chanukah message from Cantor Fair

As we approach Chanukah, the United Jewish School welcomes the warmth of Kislev as we celebrate the Festival of Lights!
I am delighted to see classrooms decorated for Chanukah! Teachers are sharing the story of the holiday and our proud Jewish history of perseverance. Despite being small in numbers and resources, we survive and thrive.

Last Sunday, students engaged and had fun in an eclectic array of educational activities. Highlights included:
Kindergarten: Kids had storytime about tzedakah and developed a sense of ownership over their Jewish learning by checking out their own book from the library. They learned the Hanukkah story is hidden in the letters on the dreidel, watched a video about the Hanukkah story and enjoyed music with the Cantor.
1st grade: Students got creative by painting their own Menorahs, playing a spirited game of Dreidel, having music with the Cantor, and decorating fun, Hanukkah shaped cookies!
6th grade: Hebrew students began a unit on Adon Olam! We learned Adon Olam is written in the poetic meter “iambic tetrameter” which allows for it to be set to nearly any tune written in 4/4 time. After Thanksgiving, students learn through song. They will try their hands at “filking” Adon Olam to a karaoke track of a song of their choosing.
– 7th grade: Students began their unit on Gevurah (strength) and talked about what it means to be a gibor (a hero). They covered last week’s Torah portion (Vayetzei) focusing on the interpretation of Jacob’s dream of the ladder. They viewed art inspired by this scene and talked about ways the dream has been understood in our tradition. They also had a Mussar lesson with Rabbi Krishef.
 9th and 10th grade: Comparative Religions class allows students to see how Judaism fits into the world. Students finished their unit on Buddhism and shifted into the unit on learning how Zoroastrian and Islamic practices compare and contrast to Judaism.
– T’filah: Students learned more about Elana Arian, enjoyed seeing the 5th graders perform “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” and sang the prayers of Asher Yatsar, Bar’chu, Sh’ma, Oseh Shalom.

We want our kids to embrace and get excited for Chanukah. Since Covid is preventing us all from enjoying traditional holiday foods together during our UJS classes, we would like to send children home with Chanukah gift bags on December 5th. We are seeking parent volunteers to help assemble these gift bags. We’ll be creating a sign-up genius to assist us. Please watch for this and let us know if you can help out in any way.

As the Cantor, Chanukah music is something I feel deeply passionate about! I invite you to share these eight modern Chanukah songs with your family:

1. “Puppy for Hanukkah” by Daveed Diggs is absolutely adorable. 
2. “8 Days (of Hanukkah)” by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings is so so fun.
3. “Latke Recipe” by the Maccabeats is a truly delightful listen.
4. Leslie Odom Jr. (star of Hamilton) and his wife, Nicolette Robinson, sing this beautiful arrangement of the traditional Ma-oz Tsur
5. If you want to see some incredible choreography and Chanukah lyrics put to some of your favorite tunes, check out this video called “Chanukah Jewish Rock of Ages-Official Chanukah Song” by the Aish organization.
6. “Eight Flames” by Nissim Black is powerful and inspiring.
7. Matisyahu (most famous for his beautiful hit “One Day”) released this fun and catchy melody called “Happy Hanukkah.”
8. For those of us who love the classics, the Israeli Philharmonic put together eight great videos of those melodies we love.

The United Jewish School is proud to have a Supplemental Hebrew program. We offer optional additional Hebrew tutoring via Zoom to students who would like to firm-up their Hebrew skills between Sundays and possibly learn beyond their grade level. Elisabeth Rosewall teaches 3rd and 4th graders and Shoshana Jackson teaches 5th and 6th graders. Some families enjoy Supplemental Hebrew so much, they continue throughout 7th grade and beyond! These students are able to join me in leading Shabbat services and actually speak Hebrew as a modern language. Other families choose not to pursue Supplemental Hebrew. 

We wanted to clarify that Supplemental Hebrew is offered for as long as students want to take it. This includes during B’nei Mitzvah preparation and beyond. Hebrew is the sacred language of the Jewish people and we encourage a lifelong study of this beautiful and holy language.

-“Get Ready For Chanukah”
November 20th @ 4:00 PM
Join Rabbi Schadick and Cantor on Saturday afternoon for Chanukah Fun at Temple Emanuel. Parents, grandparents, and all families encouraged to attend! We’ll have Holiday Crafts, Chanukah Card Creation and Decoration, Chanukah Music, and more! RSVP HERE

-Artist in Residence: Elana Arian
-We are very excited to welcome Elana Arian to Grand Rapids as our Artist-in-Residence for this Hanukkah season.  Elana is one of the leading voices in contemporary Jewish music. She is a composer, a multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, and prayer leader.
Elana will teach and sing with students from the United Jewish School on December 5th.
Elana will join Cantor Fair and Rabbi Schadick on December 3 at 6pm at Temple Emanuel for Kabbalat Shabbat .
She will also join Cantor Fair and Rabbi Krishef leading 9:30am Shabbat Morning Services on December 4 at Ahavas Israel.
In addition, Elana will lead the community, join ed by Cantor Fair, in Havdalah and headline an amazing Holiday Concert for all ages Saturday, December 4 at 7pm at Temple Emanuel.

We love to have visitors to volunteer in the classrooms and / or attend T’filah in the Sanctuary at 10am. If you have any questions or concerns, my door is always open.
I can be contacted at or you can contact our
Administrative Assistant, Kreenah Dunsmore, at


Cantor David Fair
Cantor Educator of the United Jewish School of Grand Rapids

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