By Alyssa Gorenberg

Just a couple weeks ago, I was asked to facilitate a session at the MHWOW ELEVATE Retreat  about Hanukkah programming. During my session, “Hanukkah Traditions All Grown Up,” participants shared stories of family Hanukkah traditions and afterwards spent time thinking about how these traditions could grow up and follow us into our MHWOW host tenure. For inspiration, I shared with participants some Hanukkah programs I created around traditions Moishe House staff members have. If you’re looking to do something a little different this Hanukkah, try out any one of these programs below!

Gift Back

Lander Gold, Senior Director of Advancement and Philanthropic Partnerships, shared with me that for one night of every Hanukkah, in lieu of receiving a gift, his nieces and nephew give a gift to someone who needs it more. They each get to choose a charity with which they connect and their parents make a donation in their name. This serves as the inspiration for “Gift Back,” a Tikkun Olam MHWOW program that you can host right in your living room.

Q: Lander, what’s a good Facebook event description for this program? 
A: Glad you asked! “Spend the fifth night of Hanukkah enjoying all the latkes your heart desires in my home! We will be hosting a mini giving circle, where each of us will talk to the group about charitable organizations that are important to us. During dinner we will prepare our pitches and after we all share, the group will have an opportunity to donate the money we pool together to the organization of our choice. Please bring at least $5 to contribute and also have a charity in mind you feel comfortable speaking about!”

You can use your MHWOW funds to provide refreshments for your guests as well as craft supplies to help your participants put together their donation pitch.

The Great Latke Cook Off

My sister, Aedyn, and me at our first Latke Fest

When my aunt got married to my uncle 17 years ago, my family started attending Latke Fest at his parent’s house to bring in the festival of lights. Each year right before Hanukkah, we would walk into their house to be greeted by what felt like 100 friends and family and the delicious smell of frying oil. All day and night, latkes were being freshly fried, each just a little different that the previous batch. My mom liked to make hers with sweet potatoes (before it was trendy), my grandma made hers with extra onion, and everyone’s take on this traditional food made the night that much sweeter. Insert your Jewish Culture & Holidays program here.

Before you have everyone over, split your pals up into pairs and give them a budget, which is just a portion of your MHWOW funds. Let each pair know they are responsible for making (or buying if they are nervous about their place smelling like bubbie’s kitchen for two months) the latkes of their dreams. They will bring over their batch to your place and be reheated in your oven to give it that straight from the fryer crisp. You all will wear your Great British Baking Show judge’s hat and critique each other’s’ recipes. There is a lot of pride on the line!!

Tip: Since your friends are all responsible for buying their own cooking supplies, make sure you give clear instructions on what can and cannot be reimbursed and also what complete receipts look like.

Light Up the Night

My co-workers Ben Romaner, Manager of Expansion, and Dave Press, Southeastern Director of Advancement, share traditions that are as simple as lighting the Hanukkiah, but beautifully bring together their larger communities. When Dave worked at the American Hebrew Academy, the students would bring their favorite Hanukkiah to a commonspace and light them all at the same time…a true festival of lights! Similarly, Ben’s family members each light their own Hanukkiah, but do so together each night. Surrounded by the warmth and bright lights, you can replicate this in your own community with a Jewish Learning program.

Invite your community members to bring their Hanukkiot to your house or apartment. You can use your MHWOW funds to purchase candles and matches for everyone! (Also, aluminum foil to catch the melted wax.) After you all light your Hanukkiot and say the blessings, MyJewishLearning has put together excellent Jewish texts about the holiday. You can spend time discussing these texts and talking about your own Hanukkah traditions. If you are looking for more source sheet options, check out Sefaria because everyone and their mother has created one. Did you know you can also use your MHWOW funds to print source sheets for everyone? Now you do!

The MHWOW team can’t wait to see your Hanukkah programs come to life! Share your programs with other hosts on Facebook, share with the world on Instagram by tagging @moishehouse and #moishemoment, and share with the MHWOW team by emailing us at withoutwalls@moishehouse.org.

Happy hosting!

-Alyssa