The Chanukah story teaches us that a few can bring light to many. This story of rebellion brings out the action hero in each of us. It inspires us to believe that we can right wrongs, fight the power, and bring light into the world.  However, like many stories, we focus too quickly on the climactic last chapter rather than on the years of training and hard work that go into making a miracle possible.

The story of Chanukah is so exciting and empowering because the Maccabees brought light and holiness to the Jewish People when this outcome seemed so unlikely and so unexpected. What if each of us really was able to find a way to be that unexpected hero? What if each of us was able to tap into something greater than ourselves and lift up an entire community? The only way to bring out these kinds of miracles is to focus on the process, the years of training and practice, rather than the glorious outcome.

created at: 2013-11-26A small rebellion, brought on by years of training, is occurring through a rash of graffiti in the girl’s bathroom at JCDS. A couple of months ago, notecards with careful handwriting in pink highlighter began to appear around the edges of the mirror. The notecards were all signed by “The Happiness Ninjas” and had messages like, “Be Yourself,” “Love the life you live, so you can live the life you love,” and ”Do not chase people. Be you, do your own thing, work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you and stay.” In general, middle school girls* have a reputation for cattiness, cliques, and other mean girl behavior, so how did this unlikely uprising occur?

Graffiti in the girl’s bathroom does not happen by accident (or by miracle). This graffiti is the gorgeous, inspiring, crescendo to years of dedicated preparation, with a single minded focus on the importance of community, derekh erertz (ethical living) and positive middot (character traits). At JCDS, we explicitly teach the habits of heart and mind that cultivate the ideal: “derekh eretz kadma l’torah” proper behavior precedes learning. In kindergarten through second grade, we spend time each day debriefing recess and helping one another solve social problems. Throughout the lower school, one of our regular classroom jobs is “class comforter” in which the student with this job accompanies anyone in the class who is hurt to the nurse’s office and calls home if a student is sick to wish him or her “refuah shlemah” (a complete recovery). In the middle school, students work on acting as “upstanders” through explicit teaching in our advisory program. By taking time and practicing care for one another everyday, JCDS develops students who are empowered to act as co-creators of our community.

Chanukah is a time for increased joy and light, and as we begin the eight days of celebration, I am not alone in feeling inspired by the joy and light these students bring to the JCDS community. As another JCDS parent reflected on the work of these students she said, “When you look into the eyes of your child and realize that they have something important to teach you, that they are inspiring you, that’s a miracle.” These young women are inspiring everyone with their positive messages and leadership. During these eight days, I hope that every Jew will find a way to carry on the Maccabee’s legacy through a rebellious act of inspiration, community, and kindness, just like the Happiness Ninjas.

*No, I do not know who the Happiness Ninjas are, but have deduced that they are middle school girls given the type of quotes, language used, handwriting and other impressive CSI-like techniques.
created at: 2013-11-26Orna Siegel is the proud parent of three JCDS students and one small JCDS hopeful. She is also the Director of Admissions at JCDS and a Legacy Heritage Fellow at Hebrew College. She can be reached at

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