MARBLEHEAD – Hanukkah may light up differently this year without the inability of temples to hold large in-person gatherings due to the pandemic.
“One of the lessons of Hanukkah is that in times of darkness we can still create light and light is a symbol of hope and faith that things will be brighter in the future,” said Temple Emanu-El of Marblehead’s spiritual leader Rabbi David Meyer.
“As long as people are staying healthy, it’s a miracle in and of itself,” said Rabbi Richard Perlman, spiritual leader of Temple Ner Tamid of the North Shore in Peabody about the ability to use Zoom to celebrate Hanukkah, instead of its usual large carnival.
While many families will celebrate Hanukkah at home by lighting menorahs, giving gifts, frying potato latkes, and scarfing down jelly doughnuts, or sufganiyot, most congregations will also get into the act online or with events that involve social distancing.
Events range from an outdoor mini-mitzvah fair at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott to a pop-up drive-in movie at the Northshore Mall in Peabody organized by Chabad Lubavitch of the North Shore, Swampscott, Peabody, Lynn and Everett. Most events require advanced registration, with details located on the synagogues’ websites.
Hanukkah starts at sundown on Dec. 10 (24 Kislev), and Meyer said activities around it would be similar to the Zoom activities the synagogue held for Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot.
Meyer said there will be a full congregational Community Candle Lighting and music on Sunday evening, Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m., on Zoom. Religious students are getting goodie bags for Hanukkah that will include candles, a dreidel and gelt, among other things.
Teens from Temple Emanu-El, Congregation Shirat Hayam and students from Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead will be baking pies for seniors of the Jack Satter House in Revere, with everyone cooking in their own separate kitchens simultaneously on Zoom, Meyer said,
“It’s important to remember, of all the Jewish holidays, the one that Jewish people do best without additional assistance is Hanukkah,” said Shirat Hayam spiritual leader Rabbi Michael Ragozin. The holiday that produces light at the darkest time of year is one of the most widely observed of all Jewish holidays, he said.
Ragozin said the temple on Atlantic Avenue is planning a social distanced outdoor menorah lighting and mini-mitzvah fair on Sunday, Dec. 13.
The idea, Ragozin said, is “to bring a little bit of light to the world by doing some good for some folks.” This includes a toiletry collection for those in need, and working with the Marblehead nonprofit SPUR to provide gifts to several families experiencing homelessness, among other activities.
On the last night of Hanukkah, the congregation will be invited to light their menorahs and share their various hannukkiyot all lit up on Zoom, he said.
“It’s different from other years,” said Rabbi David Kudan, spiritual leader of Temple Tiferet Shalom in Peabody. At the synagogue on Lowell Street, the plan is to have different families in the religious school light the candles each night live from the temple at 5:15 p.m. The temple’s Sisterhood plans to gather on Zoom to light the candles from 7 to 7:15 p.m., Dec. 10 through Dec. 17.
On the second night of Hanukkah, at 7:30 p.m., the second candle will be lit with the temple’s entire community on Zoom followed by a celebration. There will be a final congregational candle lighting on Zoom on the last night of Hanukkah.
Tiferet Shalom is also supplying Hanukkah gift bags with a drive up planned for Dec. 6, from 2 to 3 p.m. “I would say that more than most years we need to kindle the light of hope,” Kudan said.
Chabad of the North Shore is planning one of the more high-profile Hanukkah celebrations in the area: a drive-in menorah lighting and movie night at the Northshore Mall in Peabody on Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m.
The event, which includes popcorn, latkes and doughnuts for each car, is free, with a suggested donation of $18. Space is limited, and you can make a reservation by going to Jewishpeabody.com.
“That’s an exciting thing we are doing to get people together despite COVID,” said Rabbi Sruli Baron of Tobin Bridge Chabad in Everett.
Chabad of Peabody has also teamed up with The Home Depot for a “Menorah Workshop to Go” in which participants will have picked up a prepared menorah kit on Dec. 6, which they will then build at home. They will be holding a joint first night lighting on Zoom on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.
“We are trying to keep up and do good things. At the end of the day, we will spread the light and spread the love and it will require a little bit more creativity,” said Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman of Chabad of Peabody.
In the wake of the success of Chabad’s Sukkah Mobile, Baron is building a Menorah Mobile, which will consist of a 6-foot menorah built into the back of a pickup, with its goal of making visits around the community.
“The messaging of Hanukkah is very universal, that faith, lightness and joy will overcome darkness and evil is something everyone can get behind,” Baron said.
For more information about Chabad of the North Shore’s Hanukkah initiatives, you can go to northshorechanukah.com, where information will be posted about public menorah lightings in various North Shore cities and towns. Due to restrictions on public gatherings due to COVID-19, these public lightings and celebrations will be streamed live on Facebook, Baron said.
At Temple Ner Tamid, most every night of Hanukkah, different families are going to be lighting their menorahs and “showing us their family traditions” on Zoom, Perlman said. On Dec. 11, the temple will hold a virtual Shabbat dinner in addition to services with songs devoted to Hanukkah.
Perlman said he was thankful for the “magnificent miracle of Zoom” which has made it possible for congregants to get together, light the candles and sing Hanukkah songs, albeit in a different way, “so we can be together again next year.”
In Gloucester, Temple Ahavat Achim is getting into the Hanukkah spirit with a sufganiyot cooking class on Zoom with Janet Cline on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. The temple is also planning candle lightings each night with Rabbi Steven Lewis starting Dec. 10, and Dec. 13 through 17 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom.
The night of Dec. 12, the Gloucester temple plans to hold a virtual Hanukkah party for the whole congregation. The community is also invited to a free PJ Library Family Hanukkah Concert on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. on Zoom.
Temple Sinai in Marblehead will be holding its Hanukkah dinner called Freilach Friday. This year, the Shabbat dinner is still happening on Dec. 11 at 6 p.m., only it’s being done remotely on Zoom, with participants who have reserved their meals in advance picking up their dinners the day of the dinner at the temple. The evening will consist of a 6 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat and candle lighting ceremony, a 6:30 p.m. dinner and schmoozing, and a 7 p.m. concert with David Wesson.
Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham is also getting into the act by planning virtual and some in-person events for all eight nights of Hanukkah with candle lightings, blessings and holiday songs, according to Deb Schutzman, the East Lothrop Street temple’s executive director.
Highlights including the Beverly Community Menorah Lighting streamed live on the temple’s Facebook page on Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m.
On Friday, Dec. 11, at 4 p.m. there will be a Young Families Welcome Shabbat and a Celebrate Hanukkah with Marcy event, followed by a special Friday night Hanukkah service with Cantor Evan Grossman at 7 p.m., with the concert carried live on Zoom.
On Saturday, Dec. 12, at 5:30 p.m., there will be a Hanukkah Havdallah Drive-in at the temple’s parking lot.
On Sunday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m., the temple will hold a Hanukkah ‘Pajamicah’ Movie Night featuring the movie, “Full Court Miracle.”
On Monday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m., the Sisterhood will hold its annual Ladies, Latkes & Librations event via Zoom.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 5:30 p.m., Family Hanukkah Jeopardy! Night will be held via Zoom.
On Wednesday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., there will be a Social Action sponsored Hanukkah Conversation via Zoom.
On Thursday, Dec. 17, at 5:30 p.m., the congregation will hold a Community Last Night of Hanukkah Celebration on Zoom.