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The Story of Hanukkah PDF Version
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A child lightsa Hanukkah menorah during a holiday celebration in the Zeilsheim displaced persons' camp
Source: USHMM website
The most commonly known aspects of the story of Hanukkah are probably the Maccabean heroes and the miraculous Temple oil that burned for eight nights instead of one. Yet there is a great deal more to this story.

The story of Hanukkah recounts the clash between traditional Judaism and Hellenism in the land of Judah during the second century BCE. The Maccabees (from the Hebrew for "hammer"), were a band of Jewish fighters who fought against laws restricting Jewish observance, ultimately emerging victorious. They rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem and established a Jewish ruling dynasty, the Hasmoneans.

Students will explore background on Jewish life in a Greek world, the story of Hanukkah as recorded in 1 and 2 Maccabees, and the meaning of Hanukkah beyond the familiar lighting of the hanukkiah.

Grade Level:
Middle School

Subjects Covered:
Geography, History, World cultures, Music

Students learn the history behind the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah

Students will be able to:

  • locate the Seleucid Empire on a map;
  • explain how the Jews in the Greek world were influenced by Greek culture;
  • discuss the causes of the Maccabean revolt;
  • narrate the story of Hanukkah as presented in I Maccabees.

Suggested Time Frame:
Four 45-minute sessions

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