Light a menorah, eat a doughnut: Chanukah is chance to celebrate with community
ChanukahCelebrations begin Dec. 7

Light a menorah, eat a doughnut: Chanukah is chance to celebrate with community

Public events counter darkness and help 'the world to see'

Multiple Chanukah events are bringing light to the community. (Photo by Paul Jacobson via Flickr at
Multiple Chanukah events are bringing light to the community. (Photo by Paul Jacobson via Flickr at

Throughout Pittsburgh, community members will light candles, spin dreidels and enjoy eight nights of fried food. With Chanukah beginning Dec. 7, grabbing a menorah, digesting doughnuts and illuminating Pittsburgh’s dark skies has never been easier.

To kick off the holiday, Mayor Ed Gainey will light the Downtown Menorah outside the City County Building at 5 p.m. on Dec. 7. The event, hosted by Chabad of Pittsburgh, will include live music, latkes and doughnuts.

Five miles away, Chabad of South Hills is hosting a Chanukah festival complete with a car menorah parade, live music, an 8-foot LED robot, photo booth, fire truck gelt drop, latkes, doughnuts and grand menorah lighting. The free event starts at the Dormont Pool parking lot, 1801 Dormont Ave. Participants who RSVP will be entered in a raffle.

On Dec. 8. Repair the World Pittsburgh is holding a Shabanukkah Fundraiser Party. The event, which runs from 4-7 p.m., will include several activities.

“We are going to be lighting the menorah and Shabbat candles. There will be latkes and jelly doughnuts and even a small dreidel tournament,” Repair the World’s program manager Annie Dunn said.

Raffle prizes include a gift card from Pigeon Bagels, a food and home supply gift basket from East End Cooperative Ministry, art by Jules Malis and a portrait from local artist Maggie Negrete.

While the evening boasts various fun activities, such as a photo booth and jelly doughnut shots, the goal of Shabanukkah is raising money, Dunn said.

“The work we do is really built on a foundation of Jewish service, Jewish learning and supporting our local community,” she said. “We really couldn’t be here without that support.”

Across Pittsburgh, congregations, organizations and individuals are finding ways to elevate their holiday celebrations.

A Chabad of South Hills latke cook-off will place children in grades six through eight against one another for the title of “latke master.” The Dec. 9 event, which begins at 6:30 p.m., costs $10 and includes a doughnut bar, special swag and the opportunity to write letters to soldiers. Registration and information about the location is available at

On Dec. 10, Latkepalooza returns to Congregation Beth Shalom with games, crafts, prizes, doughnuts and latkes. The annual event, hosted by the Joint Jewish Education Program, costs $5 per person or $20 per family at the door, and runs from 10 a.m. to noon.

Rabbi Larry Freedman touted Latkepalooza and other J-JEP initiatives as opportunities to experience Chanukah through project-based learning.

Weeks ago, J-JEP students received 4-foot dreidels, which they decorated at home with their families. On Dec. 3, the huge tops will be displayed at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

The takeaway, from both Latkepalooza and other Chanukah-related ventures, is that the holiday is “fundamentally about the Jewish community deciding to stay Jewish — that’s what the Maccabees were talking about,” Freedman said. “On Chanukah, we get together and celebrate who we are, and what we’re about, and that feels best when we’re all together in one big community.”

Spending Chanukah as one continues throughout Dec. 10, as later that day a Squirrel Hill Chanukah Walk along Murray Avenue will enable participants to shop locally, make cookies, write cards to Israeli soldiers and enjoy several crafts.

Rabbi Yisroel Altein, of Chabad of Squirrel Hill, is encouraging people to register for the Dec. 10 Chanukah walk by 11 a.m. on Dec. 10 at

The Sunday program, which runs from 2:30-4 p.m., will transition to a menorah lighting festival on the corner of Murray Avenue and Beacon Street. Along with a fire show, dreidel dancers, carved ice dreidel and live music, participants can enjoy hot latkes and fresh doughnuts.

“Chanukah is a great holiday of bringing light to the world,” Altein said. “We are in dark times now and we need to increase that with light and celebration.”

Those seeking an afternoon indoors can mark Chanukah with a movie.

With Carnegie Mellon University’s McConomy Auditorium’s doors opening at 2:30 p.m., community members are invited to join Classrooms Without Borders, in partnership with The Collaboratory Against Hate and the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, to watch the premiere of “Irena’s Vow.”

The movie, which begins at 3 p.m. is a “powerful reminder of the indomitable human spirit in the face of the Holocaust’s darkness,” Classrooms Without Borders representatives said. “Given the dark days we have experienced since war broke out in Israel, our community invites you to join us.”

On Dec. 12, from 4:45-5:30 p.m. community members are invited to join Chabad of Squirrel Hill for a Menorah Car Parade. The iconic procession begins at the JAA parking lot, 200 JHF Drive.

Later that evening, from 5:45-8 p.m., Chabad of Squirrel Hill will host a menorah lighting at Schenley Plaza complete with live music, latkes, doughnuts and a juggling show.

Through programs and opportunities to celebrate communally, “We’re trying to create more excitement than what we’ve done in the past,” Altein said.

For eight nights, he continued, Chanukah celebrants typically light their menorahs near windows or outdoors to cast a purposeful glow, because “we are meant to bring it to the outside, for the world to see.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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