Throughout the month of December, the city and surrounding areas are boasting numerous events celebrating the Jewish festival of lights.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, PJ Library invited participants to decorate a 3-D printed electric menorah. The event, which took place at the Steam Studio of Wexford, allowed guests to not only observe how the menorah was made, but to create a finished menorah that utilizes battery operated candles.
The following weekend, Temple Sinai presented a potpourri of Chanukah-related programs. On Friday, Dec. 16, the congregation held a latke-themed dinner in which guests were invited to enjoy latkes with “all the fixings,” as well as storytelling, crafts and activities, said Cantor Laura Berman. Afterward, a special Chanukah Shabbat service was held with participation from member musicians. Then, last Sunday, the congregation collected canned food to be donated to the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, but not before the accumulated foods were stacked in the shape of a menorah.
Although Chanukah does not officially begin until the evening of Saturday, Dec. 24, several synagogues and organizations also decided to celebrate the holiday early.
At Temple Emanuel of South Hills, much of the Chanukah programming has already occurred, said Rabbi Jessica E. Locketz, associate rabbi and director of education at the synagogue.
“We know that many of our families go out of town over winter break,” she said. “Therefore we opted to do things earlier this year.”
An adults-only PJ Library celebration featured fondue, wine and olive oil tasting on Saturday evening, Dec. 17.
The next morning, two events encouraged families and children to get in the holiday spirit. The South Hills Community Chanukah Workshop allowed participants to make menorahs and beeswax candles, play dreidel, sing Chanukah-related songs, enjoy latkes and jelly-filled donuts and participate in a Chanukah-themed building-block building contest. And in Squirrel Hill, at Congregation Beth Shalom, the seventh-annual Latkepalooza encouraged goers to not only enjoy games, crafts and latkes but to bring in gifts for donation to Mercy Hospital’s burn unit.
At both The Ellis School and Taylor Allderdice High School, JSU — the Jewish culture club — offered students a place for Chanukah-related programs.
The goal was “to teach kids about Chanukah — the story, the miracles — but mainly teach kids the message that Chanukah is about Jewish pride and celebrating our value system,” explained Rabbi Ari Goldberg, director of Pittsburgh NCSY/JSU.
Once the holiday begins, several events are sure to light up the dreary December evenings.
Between Dec. 26 and 30 at 4:45 p.m. in the Palm Court of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Lewis Sohinki and Meredith Brown will light candles. On Monday, Dec. 26, kids and families are invited to stay for hot cocoa and to decorate their own sugar cookie dreidel. On Thursday, Dec. 29, the JCC will host a dreidel spinning competition. And finally on Friday, Dec. 30, the community is invited for a “special make your own hot cocoa activity,” Sohinki explained.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27, from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. at the Galleria of Mt. Lebanon, Chabad of the South Hills will present the fourth-annual South Hills Lights Community Chanukah Celebration. Apart from kindling a 12-foot menorah, the free event will feature a live concert by Dr. Laz, “The Rockin’ Rappin’ Reggae Rabbi,” a hot latke bar, menorah wood crafts, Klezmer music and raffle prizes.
That same day, in Squirrel Hill, the Kollel Jewish Learning Center will hold its annual family Chanukah party. The event, which will take place from 5:45 until 6:45 p.m., is free and open to all. It will feature snacks, games and prizes.
The next day, Chabad of the South Hills will hold a Chanukah seniors luncheon. The event will include music, entertainment, hot latkes and a holiday game.
Finally, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, from 5 until 8 p.m. at The Waterfront, a Chanukah festival will offer live music, local politicians, a heated tent with food vendors, games from Dave & Buster’s, children’s activities courtesy of Paint Monkey and a “special grand menorah lighting.”
“Historically, the Jewish Festival of Chanukah commemorates the liberation and rededication of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, and is marked by the lighting of an eight-pronged menorah,” said Rabbi Elchonon Friedman of Bnai Emunoh Chabad. “Our local celebration at The Waterfront merges two of our community’s most cherished holiday traditions and we expect this year’s event to be one of our most memorable.”
The annual Menorah Parade, where nearly 100 vehicles topped with menorahs will leave from Rodef Shalom in Shadyside and drive through Squirrel Hill until reaching the Waterfront Shopping Center, will precede the grand menorah lighting under the bridge between Macy’s and Barnes and Noble, said the Greenfield-based rabbi. After the 12-foot menorah is lighted, 8th Day, a Chasidic rock band, will front a live outdoor concert.
“Having the ability to share our outdoor space with the surrounding communities is very important to us at The Waterfront,” said Carey Kann, general manager at the The Waterfront. “We feel very fortunate to play such a special role in this important holiday celebration.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.