Chanukah @ Blue Back
Tenth Annual “Fire & Ice” Chanukah celebration set to light up West Hartford on Dec. 17
This year, West Hartford’s blockbuster “Fire & Ice” Chanukah festival will ignite the town’s trendy Blue Back Square on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4 p.m., when Jews throughout Greater Hartford join Jews the world over in lighting the holiday’s sixth candle.
Now in its tenth year, the annual free evening of good fun, good food, good friends (and, oh yes, candle-lighting), held under a heated tent and hosted by Chabad of Greater Hartford, has grown each year, with a record a record 1,000 party-goers expected this year. Likewise, the evening will feature lots of new activities for partygoers of all ages.
As always, the highlight of the evening will be a master ice-carver who will sculpt a giant menorah from a raw block of ice. The menorah will then be lit by Jewish community leaders.
“The purpose of this event is to bring the community together for Chanukah,” says Rabbi Shaya Gopin, educational director at Chabad. “Chanukah is a holiday of light and freedom, where few overcame the many and light triumphed over darkness,” he says.
According to Gopin, who calls Fire & Ice an “iconic” event that has become a part of West Hartford’s cultural life, the celebration has broad appeal for the area’s Jewish families, regardless of their denominational affiliation — or lack thereof.
“There are many Jewish families who may be unaffiliated, yet enjoy taking part in these festivities simply because it’s accessible…and pure fun,” he says.
“You have no idea of the impact such an experience has on a child’s Jewish
identity and his or her sense of pride in their heritage. When a child participates in a large Jewish celebration in the center of our wonderful town, the effect is tremendous.”
To mark its milestone anniversary, this year’s event will include several additions. Among them:
A live performance by the award-winning Chicago-based Rogers Park Band
The Great Hanukkah Gelt Drop — West Hartford firefighters will sprinkle chocolate coins from the top of an extended fire truck ladder, and children below will the coins raining down from above.
The Chocolate Gelt Factory — children melt and mold their very own chocolate coins.
Plus…3-D dreidel printing, Chanukah-themed manicures, glow-in-the-dark face painting, free raffles, arts & crafts activities…and donuts for all.
In addition, Chabad is sponsoring a Chanukah essay contest in which children age 13 and under are encouraged to write an essay (maximum 300 words) on “What Hanukkah Means to Me.” The winner will read his or her essay at the candle-lighting ceremony. Grand prize is a free tablet and the first 15 essays will receive a free Hatchem. Essays should be sent to info@ChabadHarford.com with subject line “Essay Contest,” no later than Dec. 13.
“Whether it is the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower or the Kremlin, there are public candle-lighing celebrations being held at 8000 locations,” notes Gopin.
Each candle-lighting ceremony spreads the light and message of Chanukah — that a little light dispels a vast amount of darkness.”
For more information on “Fire & Ice,” call (860) 232-1116 or visit www.ChabadHartford.com.
A list of Chanukah celebrations, events and activities throughout Connecticut.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10
Southbury – Family Friendly Chanukah Painting Party; paint a holiday canvas with PJ Library and the Giggling Pig Art Studio, who will take children on a step-by-step process of creating festive art work; dress for a mess! Hosted by PJ Library of Western CT and the Jewish Federation of Western CT; 3 p.m.; at the Jewish Federation, 444 Main Street North, (203) 267-3177 x340, email@example.com.
West Hartford – “Hanukkah and History” with guest speaker, classicist Jeff Kaimowitz; breakfast; 9 a.m.; The Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Dr., firstname.lastname@example.org. FREE
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12
Norwalk – Stew Leonard’s Community Menorah Lighting Celebration; giant outdoor menorah, live music, hot latkes, gelt, dreidels, led by Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht of Beth Israel, 5 p.m., (203) 635-4118 or www.bethisraelct.org.
Norwalk – Outdoor Menorah Lighting; singing and light refreshments; 5:30 p.m.; on the front lawn of Congregation Beth El, 109 East Ave., (203) 838-2710, email@example.com.
Stamford – Senior Adult Chanukah Luncheon, open to all seniors, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., Stamford JCC, 1035 Newfield Ave., (203) 487-0983 or firstname.lastname@example.org; $4/suggested donation.
Weston – Menorah lighting and display at Weston Shopping Center, with live music, gelt, dreidels and more, led by Rabbi Levi Stone, 6:30 p.m., (203) 635-4118 or www.schneersoncenter.org.
Weston – Chanukah Chocolate Factory and Open House; chocolate Chanukah chocolate creations, crafts, menorah wood-working, dreidel sand art, latke bar, donut making, meet Judah Maccabbee; hosted by the Weston/Westport Hebrew After School Program; 4 – 5:30 p.m.; at the school, located at the Grange, 12 Good Hill Rd., (203) 493-6505, email@example.com.
West Hartford – Chanukah Celebration at the Emanuel Synagogue; light the first candle, stories, arts & crafts, dinner of latkes, sufganiyot, dreidels and gelt, 6-7:30 p.m., 160 Mohegan Drive, RSVP by Dec. 10: http//evite.me/1fdWbwBqwP or firstname.lastname@example.org. Free
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13
Westport – Menorah lighting at Compo Acres Shopping Center, live music, gelt, dreidels, 7:15 p.m., (203) 635-4118 or www.schneersoncenter.org.
Wilton – Giant outdoor menorah lighting at Wilton Town Green, with live music, gelt and dreidels, led by Rabbi Levi Stone, 6 p.m., (203) 635-4118 or www.schneersoncenter.org.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14
Guilford – “Latkes & Vodka,” latke tastings, drinks and desserts, live music performed by David Chevan Quartet; hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven; 8:30 p.m.; at the Guilford Yacht Club, 379 New Whitfield St., (203) 2424 x375, email@example.com. $36
South Norwalk – Young Jewish Professionals Chanukah Extravaganza with menorah-lighting, door prizes, latkes, gelt and snacks, 8 p.m., at Spigot Beer, 17 Washington St., (203) 635-4118 or YoungJewishp@gmail.com.
West Hartford – Celebrate Chanukah at Sisterhood Annual Potluck and Pocketbook Auction; donate new or gently used pocketbooks, gloves, or mittens for a woman or child, to be donated to local women’s shelters; 6 p.m.; Congregation Beth Israel, 701 Farmington Ave.; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15
Greenwich – “Chanukah Live!” Pot luck Gourmet Latke Dinner (with latkes from Garelick and Herbs; bring cold beverage for your table, hot beverages provided); 6 p.m., followed by Shabbat service and Chanukah candle; Congregation Shir Ami, at First Presbyterian Church, One West Putnam Ave., (203) 274-5376, congregationshirami.org.
Orange – Shabbat Chanukah; bring your own Chanukiah (menorah) and candles; live inter-generational band; family-style meal and activities for younger children to follow services; 6 p.m. services followed by dinner; Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven, 150 Derby Ave., (203) 397-3000, tegnh.org. $10/person, $25/family
Ridgefield – “Chanukah Ruach: A Musical Celebration!” 7:30 p.m.; Congregation Shir Shalom, 46 Peaceable St., (203) 438-6589, ourshirshalom.org.
West Hartford – Family Shabbat Service and Chanukah Dinner, with latkes, dreidels and more, 6 p.m., Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Ave., RSVP: (860) 233-9696; $12/adults; $8/child (3-12).
West Hartford – Chanukah Musical Shabbat led by Cantor Joseph Ness, followed by oneg with sufganiyot, 7:30 p.m., Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Ave. FREE
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16
Bloomfield – “Tell Me Another Latkes & Lights: A Hanukkah Storytelling Event,” with true-life tales of courage and candles, freedom and flickering flames with Terry Wolfisch Cole, Moth StorySlam and GrandSlam champion; with holiday treats, 6:30 p.m., B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom, 180 Still Road, RSVP: (860) 243-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. $5; free for BTS or JCC members and Neshama patrons.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17
West Hartford – “10th Annual Fire on Ice: Chanukah @ Blue Back,” concert and grand Chanukah gelt drop; watch a master ice-carver sculpt a giant menorah, 3-D dreidel printing, Chanukah nails manicure, face painting, raffles and prizes, doughnuts; live entertainment by Rogers Park Bank, 4 p.m.; at Blue Back Square.
By transmitting values, children’s books are the Hanukkah gifts that keep giving
By Deborah Fineblum/JNS.org
Hanukkah and children’s books go together like latkes and applesauce.
In fact, Hanukkahs of old often included a book, its pages spotted with droplets of candle wax. In its pages the brave Maccabees once again defeat the Syrian Greeks, a tiny cruse of oil keeps the temple’s menorah aglow for a miraculous eight days, children spin dreidels for chocolate gelt (money) and you can almost smell the sizzling latkes.
These days, the marketplace overflows with books that can warm up the coldest Hanukkah night. The books reflect both the holiday’s miracles and the nuances of growing up Jewish in the 21st century.
Hanukkah-themed children’s books “help us see how the miracles in our own lives reflect the miracle” of the holiday, says Meredith Lewis, director of content and engagement for the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library program, which distributes nearly 200,000 Jewish children’s books to families in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.
As of press time, publishers were still rolling out new Hanukkah releases, but several titles had already surfaced. Among them are Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale, by Gloria Koster, a spin on Little Red Riding Hood; and Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, by Pamela Ehrenberg, featuring a family celebrating with spicy Indian food.
“You can smell the curry coming off this wonderful new book,” says Lewis, noting that Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas and Little Red Ruthie made it into PJ Library’s fall lineup. Other notable new releases include Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor, by Ann Koffsky; Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm, by Linda Glaser; and The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story, by Renee Londner.
But tried-and-true Hanukkah classics continue to delight.
“If I had to pick one Hanukkah book to read to my kids every night, it would be Eric Kimmel’s brilliant Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, says Kamin. She also loves Kimmel’s lesser-known goblin story, Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night and his The Hanukkah Bear,” in which an elderly latke-maker mistakes a bear for her rabbi.
For those looking for a dramatic children’s book, Louise Borden’s The Journey That Saved Curious George features Hans and Margret Rey’s escape on bicycles from the Nazis during World War II—taking children’s book manuscripts along for the journey.
Meanwhile, for interfaith families, Hanukkah can be a delicate time when it comes to reading.
“Parents and grandparents say, ‘A book about Christmas and Hanukkah? That’s great!’ But they need to read it first,” warns Kamin. “Is it patronizing or insulting? Or does it sensitively reflect the message of Hanukkah for an interfaith family?”
“In what can be a confusing time of year,” she says, “it’s often the grandparents who become the portal to tradition and play a key role in shaping identity.”