Hanukkah. Hanukah. Chanukah. There’s no one way to spell it – or celebrate it. From Mexican-themed parties to country club dinners, Jewish organizations across Los Angeles are offering myriad ways for Angelenos to enjoy the Festival of Lights.
A commemoration of the Jewish Maccabees’ successful revolt against the Syrian Greeks in the ancient Middle East, Hanukkah pays tribute to the first war fought for religious freedom, not control of resources, said Rabbi David Baron, of Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts.
“This wasn’t a war fought for oil or gold,” Baron added. “It was the first war in recorded history fought for religious belief.”
Today, the celebration revolves around a story that, after reclaiming the temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees had only enough oil to keep the temple’s lamp lit for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight.
Centuries later, light and oil are the holiday’s central themes. Jews light one candle on the menorah – a candelabra representing the ancient temple’s lamp – each night of Hanukkah, and indulge in treats, most famously latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).
The holiday begins at sunset on Sunday, Dec. 18, however Temple of the Arts is beginning its celebration early, with a pre-Hanukkah Shabbat dinner at the Brentwood Country Club on Dec. 16. Because Hanukkah this year overlaps with Christmas, temple leaders wanted to organize a gathering before some of their congregants leave on vacation, Baron said.
Tickets are $90, and attendees are encouraged to bring a wrapped gift to be donated to a children’s shelter, Baron said. The temple is also hosting candle-lighting ceremonies each of the holiday’s eight nights. Small and intimate, the ceremonies will be reminiscent of the low-key way Hanukkah is observed in many Jewish homes, Baron added.
For information, visit bhtota.org.
Congregation Kol-Ami, in West Hollywood, is also starting its Hanukkah celebrations early. Taking a decidedly non-traditional route, the temple is hosting a south of the border-themed pre-Hanukkah Shabbat service on Dec. 16. Following the service, congregants can order from a Mexican food truck and enjoy free churros (fried in oil, as per tradition), latkes and hot apple cider, said Rabbi Denise Eger.
On Dec. 17, the congregation will prepare 500 meals for the Hollywood Food Coalition as part of its Hanukkah Tzedekah project, and the temple will host a party for LGBTQ seniors at the LGBT Center in West Hollywood on Dec. 20.
A festive time for some, the holidays can be difficult for others, Eger said. To provide some comfort for anyone feeling lonely, the temple is hosting a Chinese Christmas Dinner at King Buffet at 1375 N. Western Ave. at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.
The temple will also host online candle lighting ceremonies throughout the holiday. For information on other events, visit kol-ami.org/calendar.
The Fairfax District has long been a hub for Jews in Los Angeles, and two of the neighborhood’s most famous institutions are holding Hanukkah celebrations of their own. The Original Farmers Market is hosting a menorah lighting on Dec. 18 with Hanukkah crafts and activities led by the Miracle Mile Chabad, a menorah ice sculpture carving and a musical performance by Jason Mesches. The Hanukkah activities run from 3-5:15 p.m. For information, visit farmersmaketla.com
At The Grove’s menorah lighting from 5:30-7 p.m. on Dec. 20, patrons can dance to music from Nissim Black, play in the faux snowfall and receive blessings from Rabbi Zalmy Fogelman of The Village synagogue. For information about the celebration, visit thegrovela.com/events/menorah-lighting/.
Other organizations are also celebrating Hanukkah with fun events.
Skirball Cultural Center
The Skirball Cultural Center is starting the holiday strong with its Hanukkah Festival on Dec. 18. Klezmer rockers Mostly Kosher will headline the festival, taking the stage after a set from D.J. Callie Ryan. The Skirball Storytellers will bring the Hanukkah story to life with a puppetry-infused theatrical performance, and visitors can attend art workshops throughout the afternoon. Doors open at 1:30 p.m., and general admission is $18. For information, visit skirball.org/programs/family-programs/hanukkah-fest-2022.
Those seeking a twist on Hanukkah traditions will find it at The Shay hotel at 8801 Washington Blvd., Culver City. In partnership with the Jewish Community of Culver City, the hotel is hosting a Dec. 20 menorah lighting with soup, sushi and latkes, beginning at 7:30 p.m. For information, visit jewishculvercity.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/4860582/jewish/Culver-City-Chanukah-RSVP.htm.
Jewish health care and social support service Bikur Cholim will inflect the holiday with music when it welcomes the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy Choir to its Hanukkah Matriarch Luncheon at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 21. To RSVP call (323)852-1900. pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).