Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

May 16, 2001:
Here comes HanuKat
Now even the Jewish holidays have a playful icon
By Rob MacKay

Pictured: Bruce Resnick '83 with his HanuKat-hat clad children: Nora (8), Luke (4), and Amelia (6).

Easter enjoys its bunny. Christmas counts on Santa, Rudolph, and a slew of
elves. Even July 4th has a flag. But what about Hanukkah?
Thanks to '83ers Bruce Resnick and Linda Yaman Haitani, Internet surfers
can enjoy the interactive adventures of HanuKat (www.HanuKat.com), a
friendly cyber-feline with a knack for offering spiritual lessons.
"We looked around and noticed that there was no character for Hanukkah,"
says Resnick, a structural engineer. "Instead of complaining about it, we
invented one."

On the information super highway since November, HanuKat stars in two
stories that are told in rhyme. In the first, the purring protagonist is
visited by the DreiDells, a group of eight enthusiastic tops with Hebrew
characters on their sides and a common adolescent problem. "When young
DreiDells become just the right age, They want to grow up to reach the next
stage," reads one chapter. "Their rite of passage comes from learning to
spin! A challenge they tackle from deep down within."

Through HanuKat's wisdom and teaching, the DreiDells concentrate hard - and
the last chapter shows them all gyrating happily. A miracle has happened.
The second adventure is a Passover story about a MatZebra named Bitter
Herb. A zebra that we can assume likes Matzo, this striped, black-and-white
animal finds himself stuck in a maze. Akin to the Jews in Exodus, he has to
find his way out - and fast. HanuKat explains that he can achieve freedom
only by thinking in bold colors. After some deliberation, Bitter Herb
breaks free; then he runs to enlighten the rest of his species. The final
image of Bitter Herb and a group of young MatZebras evokes the imagery of a
Seder plate.

The Web site also offers a host of related activities. Users can download
and print religious or thank-you cards, check out recipes, listen to a
song, sign a guest book, and learn more about Hanukkah. Teachers can see a
lesson plan. "What we're offering is a playful, interactive way for
children, teachers, parents, and grandparents to celebrate Hanukkah. It's a
different way to celebrate the holiday," says Resnick. "The idea is to
create a tradition in the spirit of the American winter holiday season, but
as a supplement, not a substitute."

Since its launch, the Web site has averaged about 4,000 hits a month. The
New York Times once deemed it the learning site of the day, and
www.jewish.com has honored it as its site of the week. It also was given
the Study Web Academic Excellence Award.

Both creators are quick to say that their work is a collaboration. They
each write verse, design the images, generate ideas, and maintain the site.
Resnick lives in Los Angeles, while Haitani, a computer software engineer,
is in Seattle. So most of their teamwork takes place over the phone or via

"It's been a lot of fun, and that's why we're doing it," says Resnick. "But
we also want as many people as possible to visit the site - Maybe HanuKat
will become to Hanukkah what Frosty the Snowman is for Christmas."

Rob MacKay '89 is an editor at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in
Queens, New York. He can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com.