With the Hanukka holiday about to begin, the Hanukka “season” is already in full swing, with activities ranging from headline acts like the Maccabeats and Greg Wall Klezmerfest to children’s crafts and homemade latkes.
Monmouth County synagogues and other venues have been holding parties and events since the first week in December.
As early as Dec. 7, Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro held its annual Hanukka Fair, featuring an airbrush artist, stained glass, custom hula hoops, sports memorabilia, Tupperware, and more.
Hanukka gift shops at Temple Beth Miriam, Elberon, and Marlboro Jewish Center, among others, have been focusing on the holiday for several weeks. Temple Beth Shalom in Freehold sponsored a Hanukka Book Fair at the local Barnes & Noble outlet on Dec. 7, with the congregation benefitting from a percentage of all in-store purchases that day, the money earmarked for children’s community programming.
Aberdeen’s Temple Shalom jumped the gun on the holiday with a Dec. 7 Torah Tots session featuring crafts, songs, and a themed snack.
Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst held its annual Community Hanukka Party on Dec. 14. On the same day, the feature attraction at the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, Freehold, was the vocal group Sharim v’Sharot: People of Song, offering selections in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, French, Italian, and English.
Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls mingled Hanukka activities with a celebration marking the official installation of its new religious leader, Rabbi Marc Kline. Highlights of the Dec. 12-14 weekend included Shabbat services and the rabbi’s induction at Friday night services. A family hanukkia building project and spinning of a five-foot-high dreidel marked Saturday afternoon activities. Saturday evening’s highlight was a concert featuring Beth Schafer, a New Jersey-born Jewish singer/songwriter.
Montclair’s Doni Zasloff Thomas (aka “Mama Doni”), a mother, music teacher, songwriter, and lead singer in The Mama Doni Band, brought her own brand of “funky music with a Jewish twist” to a PJ Library Hanukka celebration on Dec. 15 at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Marlboro.
Public candlelighting ceremonies are planned at Congregation Sons of Israel, Manalapan (Dec. 16) and outside the Jewish Heritage Museum (Dec. 17, hosted by Congregation Kol Am, Freehold).
Also on the 17th, Chabad of Western Monmouth County, Manalapan, will offer an afternoon Hanukka Story Time session at Barnes & Noble in Freehold, and the JTeen Club of Marlboro’s Center for Jewish Life will offer youth members between 13 and 17 an evening at iPlay America, complete with pizza, unlimited arcade games, laser tag, and go-carts.
Doors will open at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18, for a 7:30 concert by The Maccabeats at Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville. Originally formed in 2007 as Yeshiva University’s student vocal group, the Maccabeats have gained fame as an a cappella phenomenon with a large fan base, more than 20 million views on YouTube, numerous TV appearances, and two successful albums. The event, cosponsored by Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, will be held in STA’s 525-seat gymnasium. Tickets are priced at $10, $7.50 and $5 and must be purchased at shalomtorah.org.
Members of Temple Rodeph Torah and Temple Shalom are being encouraged to bring their own hanukkia and five candles to each congregation’s Shabbat services on Friday, Dec. 19, for a full-participation candlelighting. The same evening, Noah Aronson will appear as guest artist for Rodeph Torah’s monthly Rock Shabbat Service. A composer/performer, Aronson conducted the Manhattan HaZamir Choir. The title song of his first solo Jewish album, Am I Awake, was a winner in the New Voices song competition in 2011.
In Long Branch, Congregation Brothers of Israel will hold a Hanukka concert at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20. Greg Wall Klezmerfest — a five-piece klezmer band — will be featured at the event, which costs $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Four events are slated for Sunday, Dec. 21: The Center for Jewish Life, Marlboro, will hold its Hanukka Carnival starting at noon ($15 per child two-12 covers all games and pizza); Temple Beth Miriam, Elberon, will serve a Hanukka lunch and stage a dreidel tournament ($5 per person, $20 per family); Chabad of Northern Monmouth County plans an excursion to the Middletown Sports Complex for a Hanukka on Ice celebration; and Congregation Anshei Roosevelt will hold an open-house Hanukka celebration at its newly renovated facility.