Thank the Helpers

Shamash Night is the brainchild of author Erica Perl, whose book The Ninth Night of Hanukkah will be published in 2020. Her synagogue, Temple Micah in Washington DC, is holding the first ever Shamash Night celebration, and they explain it this way: "It is a community celebration of helpers and helping. It takes place on the “ninth night” of Hanukkah because the shamash candle spends the entire holiday helping its neighbors in the menorah. We’ll gather to give thanks to the shamash candle, and to all the helpers in our lives."

What a beautiful idea this is! Personally, it's exactly what I needed to hear as we come to the close of the most violent Hanukkah of my lifetime, after multiple attacks on Jews in the New York and New Jersey area, and after a friend emailed me this morning with a photo of her children's elementary school outside Chicago with a swastika freshly spray painted on its bricks.

Hanukkah commemorates the Rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was reclaimed from the forces of King Antiochus in the 2nd century BCE. Let's rededicate ourselves to speaking out against anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms. And let's take the opportunity in this first Shamash Night to thank those who are in the fight with us.

I'd like to thank the Association of Jewish Libraries for its leadership in the field of Jewish libraries. I'd like to thank the American Library Association for adding the Sydney Taylor Book Awards to their prestigious Youth Media Awards event. I'd like to thank the Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook and the Kidlit These Days podcast for including Jewish representation in their diversity discussions. I'd like to thank the Highlights Foundation for including Jewish writing workshops in their lineup. I'd like to thank We Need Diverse Books for starting to include Jewish representation in their diversity efforts and I invite them to step up these efforts. I hope that soon I will have a much longer thank you list. If you can think of others who need thanking, please let me know in the comments.

And thank every one of you, for being a Book of Life listener! Happy Rededication.


I thank you, Heidi, for your work that keeps me focused on the importance of reflecting the diverse experiences and values of Jewish life in my stories and poetry. And I thank you and numerous others whose work has begun to result in the inclusiveness of Jewish children's literature in the movement to create a more inclusive/diverse body of children's literature for all.