It would be a Chanukah miracle if Jewish Pittsburghers could attend all of the Festival of Lights celebrations taking place throughout the area this season.
That’s because every congregation and Jewish institution seems to offer the chance to view a Chanukiah lighting, spin a dreidel, eat a donut or partake in other traditions associated with the holiday.
For starters, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is hosting a Chanukah Bash — before the holiday begins — at the Pittsburgh Opera, 2425 Liberty Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 8–11 p.m. The Federation invites the community to “enjoy music, traditional foods, drinks, carnival games and prizes with old friends and new,” along with a few surpises. The cost is $25.
Chabad of Greenfield kicks off its revelries with a community celebration on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m. at the new Yeshiva School at 403 Greenfield Ave. The festivities include a giant gelt drop, dancing dreidels, Chanukah music, donuts, latkes, an appearance by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and other city officials, and the lighting of a 7-foot menorah constructed completely from Legos.
On Monday, Dec. 19, teens can participate in a Choco-Lit Covered Chanukah at Chabad of Greenfield, 4315 Murray Ave., at 7:30 p.m., including a menorah lighting, donut decorating and hot chocolate bar.
On Dec. 20, the Lego menorah will take a short ride to Schenley Plaza in Oakland for the Chanukah Festival where Chabad of Greenfield will be joined by Chabad of Squirrel Hill and the Lubavitch Center for a special performance by Jewish recording artist Tali Yess, a children’s choir, the Allderdice High School Marching Band and, of course, latkes and donuts.
All three Chabad organizations will begin the evening at 4:45 p.m. with the annual Chanukah Menorah Parade. This year, the parade has a new route, beginning in the Jewish Association on Aging parking lot near The New Riverview. It will wind through Squirrel Hill and Oakland before ending at the Chanukah Festival in Schenley Park.
Chabad of Greenfield’s public celebrations end Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 4:30 p.m. with a family Chanukah party featuring a hot dog and latke dinner, holiday crafts, donut decorating and an olive press workshop. And Rabbi Eli Wilansky will bring his olive press to several schools and senior living facilities, as well.
Doubling down on mitzvot, Chabad of Squirrel Hill is lighting a “can-orah” on the corner of Beacon and Murray on Sunday, Dec. 18. Made of cans donated at Chabad’s Giving Kitchen, all of the food collected will be given to the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry. A day later, Chabad of Squirrel Hill will light a menorah downtown at the portico of the City County Building with Mayor Gainey at 5 p.m.
Chabad of Monroeville, too, plans to “Light Up the Night,” on Monday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m. at the Monroeville Community Park Amphitheater. Rabbi Mendy Schapiro said the event is the largest winter holiday program in the eastern suburbs. The program will include a menorah lighting, carnival games, refreshments, donuts, treats, souvenirs and a fire truck chocolate gelt drop. On Sunday, Dec. 25, the center will host a Rosh Chodesh/Chanukah service, followed by breakfast; that evening it will host a Chinese dinner, for which reservations are required.
A short trip down the parkway, Chabad of the South Hills presents a “Glow in the Dark Chanukah” at the Dormont pool parking lot at 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19. The event features a heated tent, glow-in-the-dark face paint, live DJ, donuts, raffle and a Chanukah gelt drop.
This year, for the first time, Rabbi Mendy Rosenblum, along with his son Levi and daughter-in-law Hindy, are taking the Chanukah show on the road. On Wednesday, Dec. 21, they will light a menorah in Washington, Pennsylvania, beginning at 5 p.m. on the Washington County Courthouse lawn.
Attendees will celebrate with latkes, a raffle, hot drinks, take-home menorah kits and Chanukah treats. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh helped to sponsor the event through a grant.
“We bought a beautiful menorah, a light-up menorah,” Rosenblum said. “It will stay there. I’m very excited about it.”
Rabbi Yossi Feller is ensuring those living north of the city are included in the festivities this season. Chabad of Cranberry is hosting a public menorah lighting on Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center starting at 5 p.m. The celebration will include a “Grand Gelt Drop” with the Cranberry Township Fire Company, latkes, donuts, hot drinks and dancing dreidels.
Celebrating Chanukah publicly, Feller said, can be a response to the antisemitic rhetoric that has been on the rise.
“Our response to hatred will never be to cower or hide our faith,” he said. “Let us hold our heads high as Jews. They want us to be afraid, but our victory will be to stand tall and proud gathering in greater numbers than ever to celebrate our Judaism in public.”
Chabad’s Young Jewish Professionals is hosting Drinks and Dreidels on Monday, Dec. 18 at the Art Room in the Strip District. The following night, it will hold a Grand Menorah Lighting in the parking lot of the Downtown Shul, 810 Fifth Ave.
In Ambridge, Beth Samuel Jewish Center is offering a virtual celebration along with a Kabbalat Shabbat service Friday, Dec 16. Attendees are invited to gather on Zoom at 7 p.m. The “En-Light-ened” service will include new and old Chanukah stories, songs and poems. On Dec. 18, the congregation will host a Chanukah Party and Latke Fest, including an online auction, raffle, donuts, games, crafts and music. The party is $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers.
Temple David in Monroeville is hosting special Chanukah-themed events throughout the month, including a Chanukah program for young children Dec. 17 at 9 a.m., a teen Chanukah movie night on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. and a family Chanukah dinner on Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. All events are open to the public but advanced registration is required.
The Joint Jewish Education Program is hosting its annual Latkepalooza on Sunday, Dec. 18, at Beth Shalom Congregation from 10 a.m. to noon. The community celebration includes latkes, sufganiyot, games, crafts and prizes. The event is $5 per person or $15 per family.
Beth Shalom will begin celebrating Chanukah a few days early. On Friday, Dec. 16, the congregation hosts Shababababa, a musical Shabbat for families with young children, with Rabbi Seth Adelson. A child-friendly dinner follows the 4:30 p.m. service. Adult meals are $18, children’s are $9, and a family is capped at $42.
The congregation will light the first Chanukah candle on Sunday, Dec. 18, at its adult Chanukah party featuring hors d’oeuvres, drinks and songs.
Temple Sinai is holding a festive Chanukah dinner before a holiday Shabbat service on Friday, Dec. 23 at 5:30 p.m. Families are invited to bring their Chanukkiot and candles and join a celebratory meal. The meal is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Families will enjoy songs and a festive meal at Rodef Shalom’s Chanukah celebration on Thursday, Dec. 22, as well as a special candle lighting during Shabbat services on Friday, Dec. 23.
Poale Zedeck is hosting a Chanukah party on Sunday, Dec. 18, for members as well as non-members. The adult-only celebration includes a latke smorgasbord and live music. The party is $20 for members and $25 for nonmembers who register before Dec. 14 and $25 or $30 at the door.
Beth El Congregation of the South Hills and Temple Emanuel of South Hills have teamed with PJ Library and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh for “Donuts and Dreidels” on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Temple Emanuel.
Temple Emanuel Program and Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Mangan said she’s excited about the event because “the entire South Hills community can come together and celebrate, no matter how you affiliate.”
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill helps families prepare for the holidays on Saturday, Dec. 17, with a “Let’s Get Ready for Chanukkah Celebration” where attendees will build menorahs and make dreidels. And each night of Chanukah, the JCC will display a video on its webpage of its menorah lighting, enabling people to be in community virtually. PJC
Many events require advance registration. Please check the various institutions’ websites for up-to-date information.
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.