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Area Jewish congregations plan in-person/virtual Hanukkah events

With Hanukkah beginning at sundown on Sunday, area synagogues are preparing to host in-person and online events for their congregations.

Rabbi Alana Wasserman, of Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation in Southington, said on Sunday, Dec. 5, the last night of Hanukkah, they will hold a Hanukkah party at a congregant’s house.

“We light the menorah and we eat lots of traditional Hanukkah food like latkes and jelly donuts and we sing Hanukkah songs,” Wasserman said.

Last year due to COVID-19 the congregation couldn’t safely host this event, so Wasserman said it is nice to be able to gather again to celebrate the holiday.

“For all of our Jewish holidays a key component is being able to be together as a community,” Wasserman said. “Last year we had a virtual menorah lighting on Zoom so this year it is nice that we will be able to actually be together in person to be able to light the menorahs together.” 

Beth Israel Synagogue in Wallingford will also host a communal candle lighting on Friday, Dec. 4. Rabbi Bruce Alpert said the synagogue wasn’t truly open to in-person events until March 2021, once the vaccines were available. 

“We were in limited numbers during the High Holidays last year, but really everything was by Zoom, except for the High Holidays, everything was by Zoom until this past March,” Alpert said. 

Jodi Harris, director of congregational learning and engagement for Temple Beth David in Cheshire, said they plan to host some Zoom events again this year due to how popular they were last year.

“Each night of Hanukkah at 6 p.m. on Zoom we’re doing candle lighting, which is cool,” Harris said. “It’s just a nice way ... people being in their own cozy homes but communally lighting candles, so everybody can have their menorah and everybody does the prayers together and then we just say, ‘Have a good night.’” 

Another popular Zoom event from last year that is happening again is the bedtime story for children. At 7 p.m. on the first night and the last night of Hanukkah, the rabbi or Harris will read a good night story. 

Along with Zoom events, Harris said they will do some in-person events again this year. There will be a latke cooking demonstration, activities held at religious school for the kids and a Hanukkah party hosted at the temple building. 

“We’ll have some food, probably eating it outside, and then we’ll be providing music,” Harris said. “... Just a late afternoon of people gathering together.” 

Harris said that she believes the temple did a nice job keeping the community alive during the height of COVID-19, but being able to see people again in-person makes people appreciate the physical community even more. 

“Like any religion, it’s the communal experience, so seeing people is huge,” Harris said. 


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