Hanukkah began at sundown yesterday, and for each of the next seven nights those who celebrate will light a candle against the darkness—an age-old tradition of resilience and hope. Speaking of lights, the Christmas season is in full swing––and no place does Christmas better than New York City.

The magic of this season is warm and wonderful and full of cheer! The enchantment extends to every sense: the smell of the tree, the taste of sweets, the festive decorations, and of course the songs that bring back memories. The whole season seems to revolve around creating joy for the children and young people among us. Both Hanukkah and Christmas are occasions to enjoy the blessings of family and the fun of giving and receiving gifts. We know, however, that for many of our clients these blessings may be in short supply.

Hanukkah originally celebrates the recovery of a home that had been lost, the second temple of Jerusalem. There are countless Christmas movies and songs about being home for the holidays. For the young people in our foster care and residential programs, our mission is to ensure that we help them secure the enduring hope that they will know home again, whether it be the home from which they came, one into which they’ve been adopted, or the one they make themselves as stable and independent adults. Our services work to make that hope a reality. But unlike the long-burning oil in the Hanukkah story, this is no miracle—it’s what we do every day, thanks to the tremendous effort and care of our staff and the support of our volunteers and donors.

My heart goes out to JCCA youth who will spend this holiday season away from family, in some cases struggling to understand why they can’t have a “normal” experience like other kids, and to the families that will be without a child they love. I can’t help but think of the many extraordinary staff at our Pleasantville campus who will forgo spending the day with their own families to make the holiday as special as possible for the young people in their care.  For me, they are the heroes of the holiday.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or enjoy the last weeks of the year in other ways, I wish you joy, peace, and rest.

Happy Holidays,

Ron Richter