a PAW web exclusive column
Here comes HanuKat
Now even the Jewish holidays have a playful icon
By Rob MacKay
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
can enjoy the interactive adventures of HanuKat (www.HanuKat.com),
friendly cyber-feline with a knack for offering spiritual lessons.
"We looked around and noticed that there was no character for
says Resnick, a structural engineer. "Instead of complaining
about it, we
On the information super
highway since November, HanuKat stars in two
stories that are told in rhyme. In the first, the purring protagonist
visited by the DreiDells, a group of eight enthusiastic tops with
characters on their sides and a common adolescent problem. "When
DreiDells become just the right age, They want to grow up to reach
stage," reads one chapter. "Their rite of passage comes
from learning to
spin! A challenge they tackle from deep down within."
HanuKat's wisdom and teaching, the DreiDells concentrate hard -
the last chapter shows them all gyrating happily. A miracle has
The second adventure is a Passover story about a MatZebra named
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
only by thinking in bold colors. After some deliberation, Bitter
breaks free; then he runs to enlighten the rest of his species.
image of Bitter Herb and a group of young MatZebras evokes the imagery
The Web site also offers
a host of related activities. Users can download
and print religious or thank-you cards, check out recipes, listen
song, sign a guest book, and learn more about Hanukkah. Teachers
can see a
lesson plan. "What we're offering is a playful, interactive
children, teachers, parents, and grandparents to celebrate Hanukkah.
different way to celebrate the holiday," says Resnick. "The
idea is to
create a tradition in the spirit of the American winter holiday
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
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
Resnick lives in Los Angeles, while Haitani, a computer software
is in Seattle. So most of their teamwork takes place over the phone
"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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.