Putting a new spin on an ancient Jewish tradition

Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of — robot parts?

'It's a game that has the significance of survival and connection to our roots'

Rabbi Menachem Blum with the Ottawa Torah Centre has created a dreidel bot that children can build and decorate themselves. 0:43

It's dreidel-making time at the Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad, and this year they're incorporating some new technology to keep young people interested in the ancient tradition.

Dreidels are the four-sided spinning tops that come out during Hanukkah, which is happening from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 this year.

Rabbi Menachem Blum, the centre's spiritual leader, explained that in ancient times, Jewish children secretly studying the Torah would play with dreidels to distract the Hellenistic Greeks.

"This is the game that they would use to hide the fact they were practising their Judaism, that they were learning all about their culture. So it's a game that has the significance of survival and connection to our roots," Blum said.

From left, 12-year-old Jeremy Lazare, 10-year-old Ariella Lazare and 10-year-old Shayna Blum pose with dreidels at the Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)

'A celebration of religious freedom'

The centre is hosting a dreidel-making workshop on Sunday to celebrate that tradition, but they're putting a new spin on it.

"We're actually taking it to the next level, and we're making robotic dreidels, we're making a fidget-spinner lego dreidel, we're making a plush dreidel for the younger children," Blum said.

"We want the children to really cherish their heritage and to recognize that Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom.... When children make something with their own hands, it has greater significance, and will bring the significance of the dreidel over the holiday of Hanukkah closer to home."

Rabbi Menachem Blum is the Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad's spiritual leader. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
The robot dreidel is made with a cardboard box and a little vibrating motor attached to the bottom that makes the box spin on its own. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
The big plush dreidel can be hand-stuffed by very young children, but the lego fidget-spinning dreidel and the cardboard self-spinning dreidel require a bit more dexterity to build. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
Blum helps Ariella Lazare put together the lego fidget-spinning dreidel. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)