“I have a little dreidel,
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready,
oh dreidel I will play . . . ”
This ubiquitous Chanukah ditty, albeit witty, describes only one of the countless games that will be played this season at the hundreds of Chabad centers throughout the U.S. The Chanukah programs being offered this year are a multi-hued and colorful kaleidoscope of the old, the new and the new-fangled. From New Hampshire to Texas and from Connecticut to California, the sheer assortment and variety of holiday events is a veritable buffet of tantalizing tastes, textures and traditions.
The time-honored observances of lighting the menorah, eating latkes and playing dreidel are being enhanced and embellished in new and novel ways. In public and private spaces, the Rebbe’s army of dedicated, clever and creative Chabad rabbis and their wives are raising the bar for bringing Chanukah out of the synagogues and into the streets; thus giving ever increasing numbers of men, women and children the opportunity of experiencing the joy of Judaism.
In Freehold, New Jersey, children are donning hard hats and helping “Bob The Builder” erect a 10 foot Menorah of pvc piping. The project is the latest for Chabad of Western Monmouth County, which last year created the first-ever Lego menorah.
At Chabad of Plano, Texas, “Menorah Wars” will be fought with K’nex and Megablox as two teams of parents and children compete in a Menorah building contest. May the best blocks win.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores will sponsor a Menorah wood workshop for Chabad of Jupiter, Florida, for their first ever Chanukah festival. “We have launched a major publicity campaign and have several corporate sponsors including the local Publix supermarket, who are putting our flyers in their bags,” said Sarah Barash, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Jupiter. “Although this is our first Chanukah in Jupiter, the community response has been tremendous.”
Cirque du Chanukah is the theme for Chabad of the Shoreline’s Branford, Connecticut, event featuring the daring acrobatic feats of Canada’s famous Gym Masters under the big tent.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the King David Bikers, the Jewish motorcycle group, will sponsor a truckful of toys for needy children at Chabad of Fort Lauderdale’s holiday fair.
In Swampscott, Mass, participants are invited to rock the night away at a Chanukah concert featuring “Rebbe Soul, “ a versatile musician with an innate gift for telling a story. “He brings a new voice to the sometimes-stagnant realm of Jewish music and infuses a cutting-edge world beat with the influence of his Hebrew roots” says Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, director of Chabad of the North Shore.
“The play’s the thing,” in Southern California and has been for the past five years as the Traveling Chanukah Theatre, a talented group of Rabbinical students, performs the story of Chanukah in a hilarious, informative and interactive presentation. Rabbi Yossi Burston, the youth program coordinator for Chabad of California is the producer of the popular play and says that they perform as many as four times a day during the week of Chanukah and traverse the state shlepping their sophisticated equipment with them. “We get requests from JCC’s, Hebrew schools and organizations and play to audiences of 50-500” says Burston. “Our yeshiva boys put on a professional and well acted play and we use computerized sound effects, music, strobe lighting, smoke and other effects to produce a dazzling show.” The script changes yearly and this year’s theme, very loosely based on Captain Hook, is “Hooked on Chanukah.”
Southern California is also the scene for what is perhaps the grandest Chanukah program of all – City Walk at Universal Studios, Hollywood. More than 20,000 people jam into the park to witness the lighting of the Menorah and to participate in all of the exciting activities, games and events offered. “From the moment you enter the parking lot and realize the music you hear playing is not the theme from Star Wars, but the haunting refrain of a Chasidic melody, you realize this is truly a unique Chanukah experience” said Rabbi Joshua Gordon, director of Chabad of the Valley, the event’s sponsor.