Hanukkah! Making it FUN for all

(Image: Beth Emek’s Hanukkah celebration from 2 years ago.)

PLEASE Join me Monday evening, Dec. 4, for a discussion of making the most of Hanukkah – for kids, but also for adults! See details below and here.

In this time of darkness – literal and metaphorical – it is up to us to bring light and comfort. I hope that the December holidays will bring you close to your own loved ones and the warmth of community. How fortuitous that the most significant symbol of Hanukkah is LIGHT. I would say that the second most significant symbol is resilience. We must be strong when others cannot be. We can bring comfort and even joy.

Every year before the big EIGHT nights of Hanukkah I bring up the question of gifts and what makes people truly happy. Research has found – over and over again – that it isn’t things that we remember fondly, it is experiences.  Ask a person who puts up a Christmas tree but doesn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, why are you doing that? They’ll probably say, because I always have, it smells so good, it’s beautiful, I have so many memories of what my family did around the tree. In other words, it is a tradition. You can’t make Hanukkah equal to Christmas even if you give $10,000 gifts each night. Better to make it a tradition that carries memories that warm you throughout your life.

WHERE – Where do you have your Hanukkah celebration? A repeated place, whether home, grandparents or Hawaii, can anchor the holiday memories.
WITH WHOM – With your immediate family? Extended family? Created family? Beloved friends? All the neighbors on the block, Jewish or not? You get to decide with whom you want to create memories. Hint: ask yourself, who will jump in and love inventing the personal memories (activities) with you.
WHAT DO YOU NEED – For some, an intimate dinner that includes latkes and lighting the menorah is all they need. Others want music, bustle, lots of people and an alcohol spiked punch.
Luckily there are 8 nights so you can mix things up and have different activities/events each night.

Look here for a list of optional activities for each evening that focus on fun and giving rather than a materialistic gift-grab.

I hope to see you online on Monday. I hope you’ll share your favorite ideas for Hanukkah celebrations!

P.S. If you’d like to make some adult drinks for Hanukkah check out my friend Faith’s recipes!


First Friday Shabbat in the Round (Oakland)
Annual Chanukah Fair (San Francisco)
Making the Most of Hanukkah for Children (Online)
Update from Uganda (Foster City)
Hanukkah Doughnut Masterclass (Online)
Music and History of the Abayudaya Jewish Community of Uganda (San Francisco)
Community Wide Hanukkah with B’nai Tikvah (Walnut Creek)
Hanukkah Torah Time (Fremont)
Chanukah Concert & Conversation on Coexistence (San Rafael)
Latkepalooza: PJCC’s Annual Hanukkah Celebration (Foster City)
Castro Menorah Lighting (San Francisco)
Jewish Mindfulness Meditation (Oakland)


First Friday Shabbat in the Round
Join us for our First Friday Shabbat Service in the Round. Lots of music in a large circle with musicians. Join us in person and stay for oneg!

Date:   Friday, December 1
Time:   6:30pm, Temple Sinai & Livestream
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland

Annual Chanukah Fair
The Women of Am Tikvah invite you, along with your friends and family, to join the festivities at the Annual Chanukah Fair on Sunday. Enjoy live music with the Jon Frank Jazz Quartet and the Jewish Folk Chorus, as well as:
Many artisans and their wares for purchase
Silent auction AND raffle drawing with terrific prizes
Children’s arts and game activities
Latkes with all the trimmings AND this year new veggie options
Gift Shop table with Chanukah cards, paper and other items to purchase

Date:   Sunday, Dec 3
Time:   10:30am-3pm
Place:   Am Tikvah, 625 Brotherhood Way, San Francisco

Making the Most of Hanukkah for Children
Christmas is a humongous holiday and Hanukkah, juxtaposed to it, is relatively minor. Should we emphasize its minimal status? Should we pull out all the plugs and paint the house blue? What’s the best way to support a Jewish child who may or may not be celebrating Christmas?

Join me, Dawn, on Monday evening, December 4th at 7pm for a Zoom discussion of how to handle Hanukkah in a primarily Christmas society. Bring your questions and ideas! P.S. there’s no “right answer”. Every family must develop their own plan.

Date:   December 4
Time:   7 to 8pm
Place:   On Zoom
To receive the Zoom link email me at dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org.

Update from Uganda with Rabbi Gershom Sizomu
Enjoy music, a presentation and a chance to ask questions of Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, Chief Rabbi of Abayudaya Community in Uganda. Rabbi Gershom has led the community through Covid, while serving in Parliament, and while studying in Los Angeles and Israel for ordination in the Conservative Movement. Learn about this flourishing 100 year-old community that chose Judaism during the African missionary period, survived Idi Amin’s repression, and has become a beacon of justice and hope for Ugandans of all faiths, even while continuing to live in a subsistence farming economy.

Date:   Tuesday, December 5
Time:   7 – 9pm
Place:   Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd Foster City
Free, register here
Questions? Email jewishlife@pjcc.org

Hanukkah Doughnut Masterclass with Pastry Chef Fany Gerson
Learn to make a perfectly fried doughnut every time. In this Hanukkah doughnut master class, you’ll learn how to make the dough, how to fry, and how to decorate from James Beard-nominated chef Fany Gerson. Gerson’s award-winning, small batch doughnuts are creative, unique and delicious.

Date:   Wednesday, December 6
Time:   4:30 to 6pm
Place:   Online
Host:   The Nosher, an online Jewish food magazine
Cost:    $25, register here

Music and History of the Abayudaya Jewish Community of Uganda
Join us for music and an opportunity to meet Rabbi Gershom Sizomu as we learn about Jewish life in Uganda. Rabbi Sizomu is the spiritual leader of the Moses Synagogue, which he built with the Abayudaya community of rural Eastern Uganda during their Kibbutz movement in the 1980s.

Date:   Thursday, December 7
Time:   2:00 – 3:45pm
Place:   Sherith Israel, 2266 California Street, San Francisco
Please register here

Community Wide Hanukkah with B’nai Tikvah
Join B’nai Tikvah for the second night of Hanukkah!

5:30 pm: Potluck Dinner, candle-making and dreidel design challenge for people of all ages
6:30 pm: Shir Joy with Kiki Lipsett, candle lighting and live music feat. the CBT Choir

Bring your menorah with three candles. Stay for the oneg with sufganiyot!

Date:   Friday, December 8
Time:   5:30 pm
Place:   B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Sign up here

Hanukkah Torah Time
For Families with kids 0-9 years old, join Rabbi Zoe for a special Hanukkah Torah Time celebration! We’ll have fun with music, crafts, snacks, games, and friends! This is a multi-generational program, so feel free to bring along siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents!

Date:   Saturday, December 9
Time:   10:30am
Place:   Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
For more information or to attend, please contact Rabbi Zoe at RabbiZoeMcCoon@BethTorah-Fremont.org.

Chanukah Concert & Conversation on Coexistence
On Arab-Israeli Coexistence in the Galilee with Feliza and Rabbi Or Zohar
Join us in welcoming Feliza and Or Zohar for an evening of sacred music and impactful conversation on their interfaith work focusing on Arab-Israeli coexistence in the Galilee. The program will include a candle lighting, Chanukah songs, and noshes. All are welcome at this community event, so please invite your friends and family.

Date:   Saturday, Dec. 9
Time:   4pm
Place:   Osher Marin JCC, 200 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael
Host:    Rodef Sholom, 170 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael

Latkepalooza: PJCC’s Annual Hanukkah Celebration: Lighting the World with Kindness
Join Cantor Elana, Rabbi Lisa and the PJCC for a community Hanukkah celebration. In this challenging time, let’s light the world with a fun day of kindness! Enjoy family activities including Israeli dance and Hanukkah Zumba, a bounce house, arts and crafts, PJ Library story time, and a photo booth. Of course, we’ll have plenty of latkes and jelly donuts to enjoy, and signature cocktails for those 21+. To close the event, we’ll light the hanukkiah and sing favorite Hanukkah songs as a community.

Date:   Sunday, December 10
Time:   3:00–5:00 pm
Place:   Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Boulevard Foster City
Registration Required; Register Here
Get your tickets now! Registration required; security screening for all.
Hosts: Peninsula JCC, in partnership with Peninsula Temple Beth El, Wornick Day School, and Peninsula Sinai Congregation

Castro Menorah Lighting
The Castro Menorah lighting is a fun family event complete with music, singing, dancing, and jelly donuts! Spin a giant dreidel and light your own chanukiah along with our jumbo menorah! No registration required, come and enjoy.

Date:   December 11
Time:   6pm
Place:   Jane Warner Plaza at Castro, Market & 17th Street
Hosted by Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and Castro Merchants Association and the Castro Community Benefit district.


Jewish Mindfulness Meditation
Join my friend Steve Goldstein as he leads a monthly Jewish Guided Meditation session in cultivating middot (attributes) such as gratitude, loving kindness, joy, forgiveness/self-forgiveness, and compassion. All are welcome, both experienced meditators and those who are new to meditation.

This first meditation session will be based on a “grounding” practice, which facilitates the ability to find strength and stability amid chaos, crisis, and internal/external strife. An Israeli meditation center, Or HaLev, is currently teaching this practice throughout Israel.

You are welcome to come to one or all of the sessions. Each class is a stand-alone session.

Dates:  Monthly, Starting December 16
Time:   9:00 – 9:45am
Place:   Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Register. Or email wellnesscenter@oaklandsinai.org for more details.