At the IJE, we have a tradition of asking our youngest children to light our chanukiyah. While an adult watches, our Shorashim u’Shteelim kids (“roots” and “saplings” for our nursery and kindergarteners) hold the shamash (the “helper” candle that lights the others on the chanukiyah), participate in reciting the Chanukah blessings, and independently light each of the other candles.
Many, including some of our older children, ask, “Is that really responsible? Can a four-year-old be in charge of fire?” The answer is simple: if we empower them to be in charge of their own bodies and choices, they will rise to the occasion.
By teaching children that their voices are essential to our Jewish communities now — as opposed to only once they grow up — they learn to value themselves and their Judaism. All of us (yes, even the youngest among us) are a part of this beautiful, ancient, and ongoing conversation that is Jewish life.