By Sheli Atara Man
Early morning at Downtown Brooklyn you can see many children arriving at the two locations of the Chabad Lubavitch of Brooklyn Heights Gan Menachem Kiddie Korner Daycare and Preschool. Both locations are located one block from each other, one on Montague street and the second on Remsen street. James London on the first day of Chanukah brought a toy to his Kiddie Korner class at Montague street for the Kiddie Korner Chanukah Toy Drive for Hospitalized Children. Chloe’ London, James’ sister, carried her Menorah to her class building on Remsen street, where it was displayed at the Chanukah Exhibit table with all the other Menorahs from the KK children.
Debra London mentioned to us as they were dropping off the Menorah, “we had lots of fun making our Menorah. It was nice working on a project together. When we finished, we were so proud of all our hard work. The children are super excited, and we hope to win the Menorah Contest.”
“This year we were extremely worried that the post covid-19 period will temper the Chanukah festivities our Kiddie Korner Families are accustomed to, however with all the great creative minds here at Chabad Lubavitch of Brooklyn Heights, we managed to schedule a few live Zoom activities that lightened up our Chanukah,” says Shternie Raskin, the founder and executive director of Gan Menachem Kiddie Korner Preschool, founded 30 years ago.
Kiddie Korner Daycare and Preschool, a project of the umbrella organization Chabad Lubavitch of Brooklyn Heights, ran a full exciting Chanukah program live on Zoom every day of Chanukah in collaboration with the Chabad activities and of the Jacob J. Hecht Grand Menorah Lighting every night live on Zoom as well. Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin and Shternie Raskin, Shluchim of Chabad Lubavitch of Brooklyn Heights, organized a beautiful display every night with hot Latkes, free Menorahs, toys for kids, chocolate Gelt, donuts, calendars, flyers for upcoming events and so forth. Rabbi Raskin gave a beautiful speech every night for the special lighting and invited a honored guest to light the Menorah each night of the holiday. Everyone who came in person wore a mask, stood 6ft apart and were in awe of the beautiful 30ft Menorah. Most of the community members and Kiddie Korner families attended on Zoom and others came to see the wonderful display in person.
Every year Kiddie Korner children participate in “giving” events such as visiting senior centers and handing gifts the children wrapped in class, distributing food and gifts for winter to senior homes as part of the Kiddie Korner Stoop Soup program, which supports local seniors with food packages on a weekly basis and on holidays. KK also runs a winter coat drive, however this year with limited access to places that might cause crowding, we participated in the Toy Drive for Hospitalized Children, says Sheli Atara, the Kiddie Korner educational director. We asked JJ Hecht, who is currently in charge of the program to explain to us how the program started. JJ’s explanation melted our hearts, and we knew this year our giving initiative will mean a great deal to the Kiddie Korner families. “The holidays are the best time to teach the children how the values they learn all year long come to play in the real world,” says Shternie Raskin.
The Toy Drive for Hospitalized Children was founded in 1953 by Rabbi Jacob J Hecht who visited a Jewish boy in the hospital. He noticed someone giving toys to the children in the hospital and skipping all the Jewish children. Seeing the sadness in the boy’s eyes, he ran to the nearest toy store and bought a big red firetruck. He came back and presented the gift to the boy. The boy smiled from ear to ear. Rabbi Hecht knew he did the right thing and immediately he decided to create the charity for Toys for Hospitalized Children, a non-denominational charity to bring happiness and healing to all sick children spending the holidays in the hospital.
To top off the holiday fun on the night of the 7th candle, as the snow started to kick in, everyone joined in for a live Zoom “Glow in the Dark” Chanukah Party for the whole family. Each child received a glow bag kit, which included glow sticks, glow glasses, glow necklaces and chains, glow headband, dreidels, and chocolate coins. Srula Chaiton from Move it with Srula, ran the dance party, which was an absolute great success. Everyone commented that the party was fun and stimulating and very different from parties in past years. My children could not stop talking about how much fun the glow party was, reported Kiddie Korner’s Pre-k teacher- Raizel Schapiro, who joined the party with her children.
“Often since covid-19 we hear comments like so what can we really do with the kids, or what is the point of doing so and so and for us at Kiddie Korner we took the Corona challenge as a tool to bring families together rather than an obstacle. Chanukah this year was totally about family rather than past events geared more for the children,” says Sheli. “After the glow party, all the families that joined the Zoom participated in the family candle lighting ceremony in the house of Rabbi L. and Shternie Raskin. This was a beautiful moment, seeing my husband, my sons, the Kiddie Korner children, our Hebrew school children, and other graduates of Kiddie Korner join in the lighting and singing, lit my heart with joy words cannot describe.”
Today, Gan Menachem Kiddie Korner Daycare & Preschool, as a Project of Chabad Lubavitch of Brooklyn Heights is committed to continuous creativity and growth in these unknown times. We believe in community and unity regardless of race, age, or ethnicity. We stand tall committed to the venture of holistic education as coined by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. We are currently enrolling new families and hosting live Zoom tours which you can schedule by calling (718) 596-4840 or visiting our website kiddiekorner.org. Our classrooms are small, we keep proper distancing, our staff always wear masks, and we maintain a very high level of covid-19 protocols. To help the Toy Drive for Hospitalized Children, please visit their website- toysforhospitalizedchildren.org.
Here at Kiddie Korner Preschool, we wish everyone blessing and success and a happy new year!