Hanukkah celebrations amidst colorful menorah lightings throughout North Shore communities will reflect the strength and growth of the Jewish community, as events featuring latkes and sufganiyot, music and games of dreidel, will be held at more than 25 sites.
Services will include singers, magicians, public figures, and enough food to feed a battalion of Maccabee warriors. There will an assortment of remarkable menorahs, ranging from one that is 12 feet high built from 100,000 Legos to one commemorating the region’s connection to the sea that features 22 lobster traps.
The joys of the holiday will be tempered by sermons connecting the Festival of Lights’ story of bravery and sacrifice in Biblical times to the challenges of antisemitism today.
“Hanukkah is a holiday to remember the amazing miracle of the Maccabees and G-d giving them the opportunity to survive. It is about faith, not about gift-giving,” said Rabbi Richard Perlman of Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody.
“It is about the miracles we experience every single day by having a relationship with G-d. Our message will be one of togetherness and loving our neighbor. Hanukkah is a holiday of thankfulness.”
Congregations from Peabody to Malden will celebrate the story of Hanukkah, the miracle of light, when one vial of oil – just enough to light a menorah for one night – lasted eight days.
Traditional holiday food, including hot latkes with applesauce, Hanukkah cookies, and doughnuts, will be offered at most celebrations, along with chocolate gelt (dropped from the aerial ladder of a Peabody Fire Department truck at Chabad of the North Shore).
Chabad of the North Shore will conduct 25 community menorah lighting events in shopping malls, parks, and town halls throughout the North Shore, many in collaboration with local synagogues. The ceremonies are expected to attract more than 2,000 people, according to Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, regional director of Chabad of the North Shore.
Chabad put together a 10-member team – including four rabbis – who have been working since last summer to coordinate the events. Each rabbi will be racing around to four different celebrations to lead the lighting ceremonies.
“Our objective,” Lipsker said, “is to instill Jewish pride in as many people as possible and bring together Jews who are affiliated with temples and those who are not, as well as remind one another of the goodness that we carry.”
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said the lighting ceremony conducted by Chabad in the City Hall lobby “will bring us together as a community and enable us to learn and appreciate the significance of what Hanukkah means and represents.
“The annual celebration is needed more than ever given the recent antisemitic incidents across the country. The message of Hanukkah that ultimately good and light will prevail over darkness is especially important during these trying times,” the mayor said.
One of the more creative services will be at Gloucester’s Temple Ahavat Achim, where the Jewish community will be invited to participate in the lighting of its 20-foot-long menorah constructed of lobster traps, a tradition that began in 2014.
The Temple first checked with the Council of Conservative Judaism to determine if there would be an issue with the menorah since lobsters are decidedly non-kosher. They were told that while lobsters are treif, lobster pots are fine.
“It is a way of participating in our community with a nod to the fishing industry that has such a long history in Gloucester,” explained Amy Farber, past president of the city’s synagogue.
At Congregation Shirat Hayam, 20 miles to the south in Swampscott, members and children will work together in building a 100,000-piece Lego menorah, described as a giant art project with special colors and patterns, designed by Stephen Schwartz, an architect with Building Blocks Workshop, in Livingston, N.J.
He said it will take about 75 minutes for families to put all the pieces together.
Peabody’s Temple Tiferet Shalom, in collaboration with Chabad of the North Shore, will carry on an annual tradition in which city officials will join members of the community in celebrating the holiday at Lappin Park in Salem.
Salem Mayor and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll plans to tell the assembled that “in the face of rising incidents of hateful antisemitic rhetoric, it is more important than ever that we stand united and proud in support of all who live in our community. May this year’s festival bring blessings of light and hope for all.”
As an integral part of the Festival of Lights celebration, Peabody’s Temple Tiferet Shalom will join a number of other synagogues in the area to raise funds for gift cards for struggling families to be distributed by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston.
At Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody, congregants will continue a new tradition started during the early days of COVID where each night a different Temple family will share their candle lighting service with members and others via Zoom.
On Dec. 18 – the first night of the holiday – at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, families will bring their own menorahs and light the first candle and recite the blessings together. As in virtually all the celebrations, the services will be followed by dreidel games and traditional foods.
Ner Tamid’s Perlman will light the menorah from his home on the first night of the holiday. The menorah lightings can be viewed on Facebook and YouTube.
Perlman and a number of other rabbis said that despite inspiring messages of rededication, heroism, and miracles, they were particularly concerned about the increase in antisemitism.
“Hanukkah reminds us that no matter how difficult things get in our world, we must band together as the Maccabees did and not only survive but with the help of G-d guiding us, we must and will defeat hate,” he said.
“One of the themes of the holiday,” said Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, “is that despite the prevalence of a hatred of Judaism and Jews throughout history, the fact is that Jews have refused to give in and surrender their culture and faith.
“Even in the face of antisemitism today, we need to remain strong and proud of our Jewish identity and faith.”
His remarks were echoed by Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman of Chabad of Peabody Jewish Center, who emphasized that in the face of adversity, the Hanukkah message is to “bring light when there is darkness.”
“When there is antisemitism, the response is not to lay down and cover our head with a blanket but bring light to the situation. That means not cowering in fear but coming out loudly and proudly as a Jew.”
Added Lipsker, “If people have a problem about who we are, our response must be to vociferously and emphatically celebrate our Judaism more than ever before.”
Hanukkah menorah lightings and celebrations calendar
Sunday, Dec. 18
9:30 a.m. Help build the tallest Lego menorah at Congregation Shirat Hayam, Swampscott
10 a.m. Annual Run-a-Latke Family 5k and Klezmer Concert at Chabad of the North Shore, Swampscott
11 a.m. Chabad Pre-Hanukkah menorah ceremony, Chabad of the North Shore, Swampscott
12 p.m. Live Klezmer Concert and Pre-Hanukkah Family Fun Day at Chabad of the North Shore, Swampscott
3 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at North Reading Middleton Green
4:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Wakefield Town Common
4:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at corner of Broadway and Mt. Pleasant Street, Barletta Park, Rockport
5 p.m. Community menorah lighting, at Temple Emanu-El, Marblehead
5 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Chabad of Peabody
6 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Malden City Hall, Malden
6 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Chelsea Square/Winnisimmet Park, Chelsea
Monday, Dec. 19
12 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Peabody City Hall
12 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Saugus City Hall
4:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Everett City Hall
5 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown
5:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Reading Town Common
5:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at North Andover Common
6 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Beverly City Hall
Tuesday, Dec. 20
4 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, Revere City Hall
4:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, Hanukkah on Ice at Market Street, Lynnfield
5 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Lynnfield Town Hall Common, Lynnfield
5:15 p.m. Hanukkah Celebration, at Temple Ner Tamid, Peabody
5:30 p.m. Menorah lighting at Temple Ahavat Achim menorah lighting, Gloucester
5:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at bottom of Town Hill, Ipswich
Wednesday, Dec. 21
12 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Lappin Park, Salem
2:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Chabad of the North Shore Lynn Campus, 151 Ocean Street, Lynn
4:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at North Shore Mall, Peabody
6:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at the Library Pavilion, Danvers
7 p.m. Ladies, Latkes and Libations, Sisterhood program, Temple B’nai Abraham, Beverly
Saturday, Dec. 24
6:30 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at Lappin Park, Salem
Sunday, Dec. 25
1 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, Middleton Green, Middleton
7 p.m. Chabad menorah lighting, at 37 Main St., Gloucester
Updated information on Chabad events can be found at www.northshorechanukah.com