Organization of a Chanukah afternoon or evening that combines a fun activity with study of the festival and its history [to be followed by a party!]

No. of Participants:
20 to 40

The game as presented here was designed for ages 12 to 15, but is easily adaptable for lower or higher age groups (see the suggestions at the end of the file).

about 4 hours (including the party)



  • The knowledge questions are based on the chapter Jerusalem, Capital of the Hasmonean State, in the book, Jerusalem through the Windows of Time, by Abraham Stahl (Ed. The Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education, 1995). Photocopy it and distribute to each team.
  • Cards (business card size) with drawings of Hanukkah symbols, to be used for division of the players into teams.
  • Bristol sheets, set of felt-tip markers for each team.
  • As large a chanukiah as possible.
  • Three different sizes of candles (2 candles of each size for each team).
  • A set of three cards of different colors for each participant (to be used for the voting).
  • Envelopes detailing the assignments, to be drawn by lots by the teams.
  • The material required for performing of the assignments.

Rules of the Game for Four Teams


The players enter the room to the sound of Chanukah songs played on a tape-recorder. On entering, each player receives a card bearing a Chanukah symbol: chanukiah, svivon, oil cruise, Star of David (or 4 different hanukkiyot). The players divide into teams according to the symbol on their card.

  1. Once the teams are formed, each team receives a Bristol sheet and felt-tip markers. The team has to chooses a Hebrew name and illustrate it by drawing its own coat of arms (15 minutes maximum).

    The first team to finish this assignment draws lots first: it chooses an envelope and reads the assignment allotted, as well as the text of the chapter, Jerusalem, Capital of the Hasmonean State. The other teams in turn also take envelopes with their task and a copy of the text.

    The participants have approximately one hour to read the text and perform the asssignment they have received.

    The entire group then comes together.



  1. The madrich proceeds to the quiz: s/he asks 30 questions on the text (see below). Each team replies in its turn: if it replies correctly, it receives a point; if not, the question is passed on to the next team.

    At the end of the quiz, the team with the most points lights a large candle in the chanukiah; the runner-up lights a medium-sized candle, and the last two teams light a small candle.

    N.B. The madrich/a should decide whether to allow teams to retain the text during the quiz or not by using his or her judgement as to the group's level of knowledge, and as a function of the time available for the quiz.


    Each team in turn presents the assignment that it has prepared. All the other participants then vote by showing one of the color cards. For instance: red = 3 points; blue = 2 points; yellow = 1 point.

    The team receiving the most 3-point cards lights a large candle on the chanukiah, the team with the most 2-point cards lights a medium-sized candle, and the team with the most 1-point cards lights a small candle.

    The winning team(s) will of course be the team(s) that has (have) been able to light two large candles.

Rules of the Game for eight teams:

The game proceeds in the same way, but you will need two chanukiah, one for the quiz and one for the assignment score.

If time is short, the quiz may be shortened. Distribute to each team a sheet on which the questions are written. All the teams fill in the answers simultaneously, and while the players are carrying out the assignments, one of the madrichim counts the number of correct replies of each team and announces the results at the end of the game.

Examples of Assignments

  1. Make a living chanukiah with all the members of your team. It should be as attractive as possible, with room to light eight candles. You can use scenery and decorations.
  2. Disguise half the members of the team as followers of the Maccabees, and the others as Hellenizing Jews. Each camp now composes a dialogue to convince the other that their lifestyle is the superior. Have them present this dialogue to the entire group, using real facts. For instance:
    • What is the best way to spend Shabbat?
    • Why are sport and care of the body so important?
    • What is so important about being modern?
    • Why should Jewish traditions be observed?
      • Make enough LATKES (potato pancakes) for the entire group.
        1 kg potatoes
        2 eggs
        1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour
        salt and pepper
        oil for frying
        sugar, fresh cream, stewed apples to put on the latkes.
        Peel and rinse potatoes, grate them with a fine grater. Grate the onions, drain the potatoes and mix them with the flour and eggs. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and fry. Before serving, place the latkes on kitchen paper to soak up the oil.
      • Sing "Maoz Tzur" in English to the entire group. The words below are adapted to the traditional tune. Explain the events referred to in the song, and compose a new verse, relating to the establishment of the State of Israel.


        O Fortress, Rock of my Salvation,
        Unto You it is seemly to give praise:
        With restoration of my house of prayer,
        I will there offer You thanksgivings:
        When You shall bring to an end all killings
        And the blaspheming enemy,
        I will celebrate in melody and psalm
        The dedication of the altar.

        My soul with ills was full sated,
        My forces with sorrow debilitated;
        They embittered my life by hardship
        During my subjection to Egypt,
        But G-d with His great power
        Brought forth the chosen race,
        While the host of Pharaoh and all his seed
        Sank like a stone into the deep.

        To His holy oracle He brought me,
        Yet there too I found no tranquility,
        For the oppressor led me into captivity,
        Because I had committed idolatry:
        I had to quaff the wine of bewilderment;
        Well nigh had I perished,
        When, through Zerubbabel, Babylon's end drew near;
        I was saved after seventy years.

        Haman, the son of Hammedatha,
        Sought to cut down the lofty Mordecai;
        But into his snare only he did fall,
        And his pride led to his downfall.
        Mordecai, the Benjamite You exalted,
        But the enemy's name You erased:
        His many sons and followers
        You did hang upon the gallows.

        The Greeks were gathered against me
        In the days of the Hasmoneans;
        They broke down all my walls,
        And defiled all the oils;
        But a last flask remained
        To provide a miracle for Your beloved,
        Men of understanding, these eight days
        Appointed for song and praise.

      • Create a "chanukiah dance" to the Chanukah songs, using candles.
      • Invent a dialogue between the Shabbat candles and the Chanukah candles. Which are the more important, and why?
      • Imagine that each branch of the chanukiah represents a Jewish value. Choose the values in question and explain them. Name the value embodied by the Shamash (the ninth candle), that unifies all the others. You can present your explanations in song.
      • Imagine that the story of Chanukah is happening today in your town. Who are the different characters involved? How do the events develop? Illustrate your answers by performing a sketch (you can make it a comic sketch, if you wish).
      • Treasure hunt: hunt for (or make) at least ten objects in your club, that help to guarantee the survival of Jewish tradition.
      • Prepare a publicity campaign (with handbillss, posters, slogans. TV spots etc.) to invite the Jews to participate in the Temple inauguration festivities.
      • Compose the front page of a newspaper recounting the Maccabean revolt. Make it large enough to be visible to everyone.

Adaptation for young participants:


Each team receives only one page of the text, a different page for each team. The teams are asked only 6 questions.

The team answering 5 or 6 questions correctly lights a large candle.

The team answering 3 or 4 questions correctly lights a medium-sized candle.

The team answering 2 questions or less correctly lights a small candle.

Example of Assignments

A madrich/a or an older participant should help each team of children to prepare their assignment.

  1. Make a living chanukiah with all the members of your team; make it as attractive as possible. You can use decorations and scenery.
  2. Create your own Chanukah song, relating the story of the Maccabean revolt, the inauguration of the Temple and the miracle of the flask of oil.
  3. . Read the following portrait of Judah Maccabee. Then, prepare a publicity campaign to have him appointed King of Israel.

    Judah Maccabee, son of Mattityahu, spearheads the rebellion against the Greeks. After a difficult military campaign, he succeeds in liberating Jerusalem, cleansing and rededicating the Temple and offering the first sacrifice to G-d on the new altar.

    Judah, who leads the fighting with the agreement of his his brothers and all his followers, is not only "as courageous as a lion pouncing on its prey". He distinguishes himself, too, by his great intellectual qualities and his noble spirit. He has no time for court squabbles or glory-seeking. Judah is a bachelor, who devotes himself entirely to the service of his people and of G-d.

  4. Create a chanukiah, using the furniture in the room.
  5. Make three chanukiot of different shapes out of modeling clay. They should be strong enough to hold candles.
  6. Act out a scene evoking the miracle of the flask of oil.
  7. Make a svivon (with a pencil, draw and cut out a circle from a piece of cardboard) or use an existing svivon from stock. Think of four assignments for group members, one for each face/letter of the svivon, for instance:
    • Nun: Sing a Chanukah song
    • Gimmel: Hop round the room
    • Heh: ......................................
    • Shin: ..........................................

    When the group comes together, have the four teams present assignments in accordance with the procedure you decided.

  8. Each member of the team takes on a different character, allocated to one of the letters of the svivon:
    • Nun: Matityahu
    • Gimmel: Antiochus
    • Heh: Judah Maccabee
    • Shin: Jason, a Jew who wants to imitate the Greeks.

    Each character invents a song to present himself (without identifying himself).
    A fifth participant spins the top. Each time the svivon comes to rest on a letter, the character connected to that letter recites his verse. Spin the svivon faster and faster! The spectators have to guess the names of the characters.

  9. Make chocolate truffles, share them out among participants.

Quiz Questions

  1. What rights did the Jews have in the Babylonian exile? What rights did they not have?
  2. What was the High Priest's role?
  3. By whom were the Middle East nations influenced?
  4. Enumerate the differences between the Greeks and the Jews.
  5. Who, above all among the Jews, imitated the Greek customs?
  6. How did the Jews imitate the Greeks and their culture?
  7. How did Judaism view Greek culture and why?
  8. How did religious Jews view the Hellenists?
  9. What arguments were put forward by the Hellenists to justify their conduct?
  10. In what year did Antiochus IV begin his reign over the Middle East?
  11. What were the ambitions and aims of Antiochus IV?
  12. What bans and restrictions did Antiochus IV impose on the Jews?
  13. What punishments were inflicted on those who opposed the king?
  14. Why were Hannah and her seven sons killed?
  15. Who was Philip and what did he do?
  16. What did Eleazar do and what happened to him?
  17. What was Mattityahu's reply to the Greek commander who ordered him to eat pork?
  18. What appeal did Mattityahu make to his people?
  19. With what were the young girls threatened?
  20. What happened at the wedding of Hannah, Mattityahu's daughter?
  21. How did the revolt of the Hasmoneans begin?
  22. Who commanded the Hasmoneans, and how did they fight?
  23. How many Jewish soldiers were there and how were they armed?
  24. What were the differences between the Jewish and the Greek armies?
  25. In what year was Jerusalem reconquered by the Jews?
  26. On what date is Hanukkah celebrated in the Jewish calendar, and why?
  27. What miracle occurred in the Temple?
  28. When was "Maoz Tzur" written?
  29. Give a review of the contents and meaning of "Maoz Tzur".
  30. How did Jerusalem develop during the reign of the Hasmoneans?




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16 Jun 2005 / 9 Sivan 5765 0