Celebrate Hanukkah with Shalom Sesame: Creating Olive Oil

The story of Hanukkah is a classic tale of Jewish perseverance. We listen to stories about Judah the Maccabee, who led the Jews to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem from idol worshippers. Judah wanted to light a special candleholder called the menorah to rededicate the Temple, but it only had enough oil to last for one day. The oil lasted eight days for the ultimate Hanukkah miracle. In the end, we see the true power of belief and hard work.

Together with your children, watch the Shalom Sesame video below to learn how olive oil is made in Israel and used to light a traditional oil hanukkiyahhanukkiyahחֲנֻכִּיָּהNine-branched candelabra used during Hanukkah – eight branches for each night of the holiday, plus another branch (often taller, central, or more prominently displayed) for the shamash (helper) candle, which is used to light the others. . Then try some of the discussion ideas and activities below recommended by Reform Jewish educators to further extend the lessons learned in the video. If you wish, share your experiences and ideas in the comments sections below!


We love olives! Talk to your kids about stories from the Torah that are connected to the olive tree. What about the story of Noah? Did you know that the olive branch is part of the symbol of the State of Israel? The olive is also one of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel.

Today, most people light candles on Hanukkah, but in ancient times everyone used olive oil instead of candles. What are the different steps in the process? Have you ever lit a hanukkiyah with olive oil instead of candles?


  • All about olives: Share stories from the Torah that include the olive (such as the story of Noah), or look at photos or paintings of olive trees and be inspired to create artwork about olives. The olive branch is also a popular Jewish art motif. Visit a synagogue and see if you can find olives or olive branches on any objects in the sanctuary or the gift shop.
  • Old-school olive oil: Specialty stores sell small vials of olive oil equipped with a wick so that using olive oil to light your menorah isn't as messy as you might think. Try creating a new tradition for your kids (and yourself!).
  • All kinds of candles: Candles are a part of many different Jewish rituals. Gather Shabbat, Hanukkah, Havdalah, and memorial candles together. Ask your children to touch and explore the different candles, to trace their outlines on paper, and to discuss which ones are their favorites and why. Discuss their uses, design, and their meanings. Ask why they think that candles are important in so many different Jewish rituals.
  • Cook with oil together: In the video, Asher and his mother enjoy sufganiyotsufganiyotסֻפְגָּנִית"Jelly doughnuts;" traditionally eaten in Israel during Hanukkah; singular: sufganiyah.  to help commemorate the miracle of the oil. Many people also enjoy latkeslatkeלְבִיבָה"Pancake" (Yiddish); fried potato pancake often eaten on Hanukkah; plural: latkes.  fried in oil. Preparing food with your children can become a great learning experience, especially when you make connections between the food and Jewish history and culture. Entrée to Judaism for Families provides tools for helping children learn to cook, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding, and a great starting point for sharing stories about the meaning and history associated with each recipe.

Watch: Making Olive Oil

For more Shalom Sesame videos, activities, and other materials, visit our friends at ShalomSesame.org.