UHC religious school students may be few in number, but they’re always game for a holiday challenge. When the call goes out, the class is on the scene to build a sukkah, set the Pesach table or, when a new Hanukkah book arrives over the transom, step in as literary reviewers.
Race Up Mount Ram: A Hanukkah Story (48 pages) from Eclectic Ivri Press, by Melissa Berg, tells the story of Chayim, a resolute underdog who calls upon all his resources to climb Mount Ramon in Israel’s Negev Desert and become Champion of the Maccabees.
Chayim’s opponent is the popular favorite Rimon, who, needless to say in this tortoise-vs.-hare story, learns to regret his lackadaisical approach to training.
While Rimon meanders confidently across the easy route, Chayim overcomes his own fears to climb the face of the mountain, ride a zip line and navigate a raging river on a paddle board.
Precocious Sunday school elementary school instructor Jennifer read Race Up Mount Ram to religious school students Sophie and Garrett on the morning of Hanukkah eve and patiently moderated the thoughtful discussion that followed.
Hard work and preparation can help you negotiate the rapids
“Do you have any thoughts about the book?” Jennifer asked the class. “Anything you liked about it? I liked how [Chayim] won.”
“I’m not really sure,” replied Garrett, who had nevertheless absorbed the story while fidgeting throughout. “It was real [dramatic] when [Chayim] was racing on the water. I was just saying that because that water seemed so wavy that someone would get knocked off. Yeah, and he didn’t!”
Jennifer found a teaching point here. “As you can see, [Chayim] put in a lot of hard work to win the race! Do you have any instances where you worked hard and something you haven’t expected has happened?”
Sophie said, “Like, I had a math test and I studied.”
“And then what happened?” Jennifer replied.
“And I got an ‘A’”.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get an ‘A’ or not,” Sophie said.
Jennifer capped the discussion: “Yes, so you can see how hard work pays off!”
Who was the real slowpoke?
While the class appreciates a good book, they’re also sharp critics of publishing errors, as should be any good reviewer.
“There was one part where there was a typo, also,” Jennifer said, leafing through the pages. “I’m trying to find it.”
“I want to see the typo!” Garrett said.
Jennifer found the mistake. “OK. It said, ‘He wasn’t going to let a slowpoke like Rimon overtake him’. But that should actually be “Chayim”. Chayim is the one who [Rimon] thought would be slow.”
To be corrected in the next edition, no doubt.
Jennifer summed up: “I think in a way it’s both [an adventure book and a Hanukkah book]. Because the Hanukkah aspect of it was [Chayim] winning the Shield of the Maccabees.
“We’re going to make some latkes so [the students] can know how to do that. We’re also going to make decorations and cards. So, that will be fun. And we’ll sing some songs!”
“But it was also a really good book to show values and work ethic. Even though he was so young (maybe 9 or 10), Chayim was still able to persevere, because he knew he wanted to do well in the race. He worked hard [in training] for a month. Then he was able to win the race, even though it wasn’t expected.”
So, what’s on tap for the rest of the morning, as the UHC Sunday school class prepares to celebrate Hanukkah?
“We’re going to make some latkes so [the students] can know how to do that,” Jennifer said. “We’re also going to make decorations and cards. So, that will be fun. And we’ll sing some songs!
Race Up Mount Ram is author Melissa Berg’s fourth book.