By Natasha Mayer
This past Sunday, the first night of Hanukkah, JWFNY had the honor of serving as a co-sponsor of the JCC Harlem Hanukkah Family Celebration. JCC Harlem opened just two years ago as an outpost of the Marlene Meyerson JCC on the Upper West Side in response to the growing community of Jews living in Harlem. We decided to sponsor this event to support the expanding and diverse community of Harlem Jews. This animated event, spearheaded by Meg Sullivan, Sarah-Kay Lacks, and Adina Schwartz, attracted a huge crowd of families, including some with infants in carriers and some with children up through middle school, all of whom seemed excited to partake in everything the JCC had to offer, from a ball pit for the younger guests, to candle-making for older children. What stood out most to me was how well the event worked to cultivate children’s joy in their Jewish community.
JWFNY provided a greeting card making station, where children designed and colored their own Hanukkah cards for family, friends, and teachers. While working with the children, I asked a few to tell me about why they love Hanukkah. Unsurprisingly, several of the answers were gelt or sufganiyot, but just as many children told me about getting to eat dinner with grandparents, or how excited they were to give a thoughtful gift to a best friend or teacher. It was so wonderful to see children really finding their own delight in Judaism from within their community. The parents of course encouraged this Jewish journey by admiring their children’s work, and discussing Jewish values and traditions with the other parents and with us.
In addition to the arts and crafts, families also enjoyed an olive oil pressing demonstration, menorah lighting and blessings, and of course, what would a Jewish event be without food? We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with JCC Harlem on such a spirited and joyous event!
To keep celebrating Hanukkah with JWFNY and JCC Harlem, come see us at the Hanukkah Klezmer Bash on Saturday, December 8th, 7:30-9:30PM. In this joyous MusicTalks performance, Daniella Rabbani, star of The National Yiddish Theater, and 12th Night Klezmer will transport you back in time to a Chanukah Celebration in the Shtetl (a traditional Eastern European village). The evening will include favorite Yiddish songs and also feature Ladino and Yemenite tunes by singer Inbar Goldman – awakening the sound and spirit of the Festival of Lights. Register here