Written by Matt Sabo
IRVINE — Huntington Beach resident Katie Kent grew up as a Buddhist, and her husband grew up as a Christian.
Kent may have never thought she would be watching her 9-year-old daughter Izzy play the dreidel game, but she says she recognizes learning about other faiths is important.
“It’s good for them to learn and become well-rounded,” said Kent, who also has a 6-year-old daughter, Maddie. “We like to mix it up.”
Izzy and Maddie, who are in fourth and first grade respectively at Eader Elementary, certainly got that opportunity on Thursday night. For the first time, Girl Scouts of Orange County hosted a Hanukkah event, at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine.
On the fifth night of Hanukkah, more than 130 Girl Scouts learned more about the Jewish faith along with their troop leaders and parents.
The event was organized by Girl Scouts of Orange County communications director Caron Berkley, who is herself Jewish. But the majority of the Scouts who participated Thursday weren’t, she said.
At first, she said she was planning for a group of 30 to 50 girls, but interest was widespread in the Hanukkah celebration.
“This holiday is a great entry point for people who don’t have lots of exposure to the Jewish faith,” Berkley said. “It’s amazing that people feel like they want to expose their kids to something that is not as common in Orange County. You know, there’s not as many Jews here as if you grew up in New York or L.A. It’s a nice opportunity for people to bring their kids onto a synagogue campus and learn about the holiday. It’s like a win-win for everyone. Plus, I think people are really yearning to be together in person after everything with COVID.”
Girl Scouts saw the lighting of the hanukkiah, a Hanukkah menorah, inside the synagogue before heading to a few stations outdoors. They got to play the dreidel game and eat sufganiyots, an Israeli jelly-filled donut.
They also made their own miniature menorahs, with colored tiles and a nut.
Izzy Kent said the dreidel game was her favorite.
“I really like it,” Izzy said. “I’m really into historical stuff.”
Izzy’s friend from Troop 8395, Hannah O’Roark, also attended with her mother Beth, a troop leader.
“We’re Christian, but my parents have traveled to Israel a couple of times,” said Beth O’Roark, who also lives in Huntington Beach. “I’ve always wanted to see what Hanukkah is about, how it works. This is an awesome event for girls to learn.”
The Girl Scouts held a STEM Expo event in October, but large-scale events such as Thursday night’s have been rare during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the Hanukkah celebration drew to a close, the Girl Scouts were addressed by Rabbi Corie Yutkin, Chapman University’s chaplain and director of Jewish Life.
“We’re supposed to be lamp lighters in this world, and we’re supposed to bring light to others,” Yutkin said. “We do that not only by lighting a hanukkiah and being here together to celebrate, but also by treating each other kindly, with fairness, with tolerance, with vulnerability and with dignity. We may each come from a different background, but we are gathered here under one umbrella representing the Girl Scouts of Orange County.”
That was really the point of the celebration.
“We’re not a faith-based organization, [but] we encourage girls to connect to their faith and understand that there are values that are common between Girl Scouts and all faiths,” Berkley said.
Written by Matt Sabo, this article appeared in the 12/04/2021 print
edition of the Los Angeles Times/Daily Pilot.