Hanukkah 2021 Night 1: Children

November 2021

This Hanukkah we are taking a moment to shine a light on the resilience of our community throughout this past year. Tonight, we light the 1st candle of the menorah and read how our community brought light and hope to our 


Bouncing back, the Chabad Center’s famed Camp Gan Israel was able to provide a meaningful and safe summer camp experience with a 40% increase in enrollment over last year. As one parent put it: “Camp Gan Israel is our favorite place to be every summer! Our children look forward to the dedicated and loving counselors, the nonstop fun, and the incredible friendships they develop. As parents, we know that their Jewish identities are deepened, enriched, and made more meaningful. Their summers at Camp Gan Izzy will be some of the highlights of their childhoods.”


At the heart of Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Antonio’s work, families in financial crisis are often the focus. Nobody suffers more than dependent children. Imagine – few or no clothes to wear, no school activities that cost money, no family vacations to build life-long memories, unexpected medical expenses, and no summer camp. The list is endless. As the COVID pandemic continues to plague our world, the Hebrew Free Loan Association is here to provide much-needed interest-free loans to families in need of a temporary financial hand-up. To apply for a loan or support our work please go to www.hfla-sa.org.

Jewish Family Service continues to be the lead nonprofit for the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative. In its first full year, the group of six nonprofits brought mental wellness resources into three school districts (South San ISD, Harlandale ISD and Edgewood ISD). The program served nearly 5,000 people through counseling, outreach, and education.


Kesher Shalom, the innovative, hands-on learning program of Congregation Shalom, is a shining light for our community. Taught by veteran Jewish Educator, Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, our mixed-age model allows children to both learn from and support each other while developing a love of Hebrew and Judaism. Children with a variety of learning and physical needs participate in Kesher and, in addition to adult support, the children all look out for and help one another. Children have the freedom to explore topics and their interest often drives the curriculum. Kesher is a benefit of membership, however, we welcome non-members to participate on a tuition basis. Congregation Shalom is a small shul with a big heart dedicated to educating the next generation.

Congregation Rodfei Sholom continues to be a light for the spirituality, education, and social lives of children of all ages. Our youngest children are learning daily at Gan Sholom, focusing on Jewish Holidays, weekly Torah portions, and a new and innovative gardening program. Our middle school and high schoolers gather for monthly educational sessions, social events, and to celebrate Jewish Holidays. Most recently they enjoyed a No Kiddush Yom Kippur Kiddush, Sukkah building and decorating, and a movie under the stars in the Sukkah.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Torah Academy of San Antonio (TASA) has been able to provide in-person instruction to all students since last school year. This has allowed parents to get back to their “new normal” and focus on their work and families, being at rest knowing that their children are not only enriching their minds and spirits but also are in a safe and loving environment. For the 2021-2022 school year, TASA has a student roster of 46 children, representing a 31% enrollment increase. Since it was founded, our graduates have been recognized by their early college high schools or yeshivas that they attend after TASA, by excelling in their courses. Most recently our former students, Shayna Schwartz, currently attending a girl’s yeshiva in New Jersey, has been placed in the higher Hebrew and honors classes. Eliyahu Shaul, attending the Mechina Preparatory yeshiva in Little Rock, AR, is standing out in his studies as well. Our greatest revenue is our students’ accomplishments and success as they make their own path in this world.

PJ Library is all about “connecting.” We began in-person events after months of virtual-only socialization. The new playground at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning provided the perfect location for the first program, a Shavuot Ice Cream Social. This program was well attended and confirmed our belief that many families want to connect in person. In August, PJ Library held a Back-to-School Splash Party, where families swam, enjoyed a meal, and sang songs. Many interfaith families have connected through the JIY: Jew It Yourself monthly class. PJ Library is proud to join other congregations for Tot Shabbats around town this year and is excited to continue to focus on connecting families to Jewish books and to each other.

Chabad through its CTeen program has infused its teen participants with excitement and a deeper appreciation of their Judaism and heritage. In addition to monthly themed Shabbat Dinners, holiday events, social and volunteer opportunities, CTeens highly popular “Pizza and Parsha” event gives teens the opportunity to form and cement real friendships in a fun and safe environment. “I love going to Pizza and Parsha every week because I get to see my friends and learn a practical lesson from the weekly Torah portion,” said Samantha Abramson. “Rabbi Grossbaum always makes the evening so much fun! Everyone should join me and see what Pizza and Parsha are all about!”


In keeping with Hannukah’s spirit of dedication, Temple Beth-El was proud to celebrate the dedication of 28 new learners in its Sunday Beit Midrash. In September, these new kindergarten to third grade students were consecrated and began their journey towards a life full of Jewish curiosity and learning. To prepare for consecration, families met with Rabbi Mara Nathan and our family educator, Cindy Berman, to discuss how to live Jewishly through family traditions, shared values, and keeping a Jewish home.