Chanukah gets kids in the mood


(Original publication: December 13, 2006)

LARCHMONT — A new spot on Palmer Ave. is getting children excited about Chanukah.

At the Dreidel House, a Judiac and Chanukah craft center, is open for the month of December to celebrate the festival of lights.

Penny McLoughlin of Larchmont was pleasantly surprised when she brought her children and two of their friends there for arts and crafts afterschool today.

“I’m Jewish and my husband’s Catholic. I wanted to do something for them for Chanukah,” said McLoughlin, a stay-at-home mother. “I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this place yesterday.”

In addition to an assortment of menorahs, dreidels, chocolate gelt, and cookbooks, the store offers a crafts corner where children can make their own Chanukah gifts.

“Oh, look how good its coming along,” said Liam Murphy, 6, of Larchmont as he displayed a colorful sand art driedel piece he was working on to his friends.

The Dreidel House is a project of Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish outreach organization. Rabbi Mendel Silberstein and his wife Chana started the Larchmont-Mamaroneck chapter when they moved into the area three months ago from Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

“What we focus on is learning and celebrating Jewishness in a warm fun, exciting and welcoming way,” said Rabbi Silberstein. “We look at the Jew as a Jew, no matter what level of observance — Reform, Conservative — it doesn’t matter. We take them one step closer to their observance of Torah and Mitzvah.

Silbersteins, who are Orthodox Jews, have reached out to neighboring synagogues and schools to offer their education and craft programs, they said.

They have developed a “Friendship Circle,” a program that pairs volunteer teens with special needs children. Each Friday night, they open their home to Shabbat dinners and hope to develop a Jewish education class for adults, they said.

Yesterday, non-Jewish residents appreciated their efforts, too.

Anne Marie Hayes of Larchmont, a stay-at-home mother, walked into the Dreidel House in search of items for her daughter’s pre-school class.

“They are demonstrating how to play dreidel games tomorrow, so when a friend said that there was this Chanukah store in town, I thought, huh, that’s exactly where I need to go. I’m so excited there’s one in town,” Hayes said.

The Dreidel House is open from Dec. 3 to Dec. 25th and is located at 1993 Palmer Avenue in Larchmont.