Gentile Dreidel


A while back, the kids were asking about Hanukkah.  Apparently they had some friends that had dreidels in preparation for the Jewish celebration.  I didn’t really know much about Hanukkah aside from the dime store version.

Anyhow, I figured in the spirit of…uh…learning more about Hanukkah, I’d do a little research on the holiday.  I told the kids about the Jews’ rededication of the temple in Jerusalem and how they only had one day’s worth of oil to burn in the lamp and how the oil lasted for 8 days.  All in all, it was pretty interesting.  They knew I was building a dreidel though so they were anxious to get to the game.

spin the dreidel

spin the dreidel

I don’t know if it is proper for a non-Jew to play this game so if we were out of line, someone let me know.  In the meantime, we had a lot of fun.  The dreidel has 4 sides, each with a Hebrew letter:  nun, gimel, hei, shin which form an acronym that stands for “a great miracle happened there”.  A cool thing that I learned is that in Israel, they change the letter shin to po which changes the acronym to “A great miracle happened here”.

So for the game, the letters are given these meanings:

  • Nun – nisht – “nothing” – nothing happens and the next player spins
  • Gimel – gants – “all” – the player takes the entire pot
  • Hey – halb – “half” – the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
  • Shin – shtel ayn – “put in” – the player puts one marker in the pot

spin the dreidel

The game can be played with any of a number of markers including money and chocolate.  Since the kids are thin on money, and since I might feel bad taking their money, we decided to play with mini-M&Ms.  It really is a fun game to play.  Each player spins the dreidel and does what the dreidel letter signifies.

I think spinning the dreidel might be the Old Testament version of Monopoly though as it appears to be a very long game to play.  We played for 20 minutes or so and were no where near declaring a clear winner.  In other news, I can confirm that M&Ms will melt in your hand.

Anyhow, we learned a little about other people and had some fun playing a new game as well. Abigail asked me if we could play again this morning. We’ll need to stock up on M&Ms I guess!

Of course, no discussion of Hanukkah would be complete without Adam Sandler singing his Hanukkah song!

8 thoughts on “Gentile Dreidel

  1. I don’t think it’s disrespectful for non-Jews to play dreidel. The local Rabbi’s wife teaches at my school and brings them in for her students to play each year. The kids always look forward to it. I think it’s really cool! It’s a fun way to do a little cultural exchange in an area where there aren’t many Jews to get to know. 🙂

  2. I think it is important for children to learn about, and learn to respect different cultures and religions. Good for you for giving that gift to your children.

  3. ROFLMA…I had never heard that Adam Sandler bit before! My kids are wondering why I’m laughing …again…at your blog.

    You have now moved to the top of my list of blogs that just plain make me giggle!

    BTW, you’re a good dad for teaching your kids about other cultures and religions. If we all understood each other a little maybe we wouldn’t have spent most of our human history trying to blow each other up!!!

  4. You did a great job, and definitely got your facts straight!

    It is not disrespectful for a non-jew to be playing dreidel – personally, I believe quite the opposite. You’re teaching your children about different cultures and in a non-threatening or scary way. Because of you, your children will grow up to be understanding, thoughtful, sensitive adults, and the world will be a better place for it.

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