6: Excerpts from Sholem Aleichem’s “Hanukah Money,” translated and adapted by Uri Shulevitz and Elizabeth Shub, with illustration by Uri Shulevitz, 1978.
This story by the classic Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem is told from the perspective of an impish child who eagerly enjoys the material rewards of Chanukah, greedily counting his Chanukah gelt until he dreams at night about wolfing it down like a steaming plateful of latkes. Students with Yiddish knowledge may wish to access the story in the original version here or to listen to an audio recording here.
Uri Shulevitz, a Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book author and illustrator, illustrated an English-language children’s book version of Sholem Aleichem’s story with witty, whimsical monochromatic pictures featuring children in poorly-fitting raggedy clothing giddily reaping the rewards of the holiday. This is the final illustration in the book, showing the narrator’s dream of devouring a platter of Chanukah money.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students to discuss the following questions: How is the reading audience meant to feel toward the narrator for his hyper-focus on Chanukah gelt (rather than on his relatives or on the more religious rituals of Chanukah)? Affection? Disdain? Does the apparent poverty of the children in the picture enhance or change your interpretation of their interest in, and desire for, money? Invite your students to characterize the narrator’s personality with a few adjectives (e.g., childish, desperate, frivolous) and to think about whether this illustration reflects their own interpretation of the narrator.
Source: Uri Shulevitz, in Sholem Aleichem, Hanukah Money, trans. and adap. Uri Shulevitz and Elizabeth Shub. New York: Mulberry Books, 1978.