It’s Chanukah!

Thousands of years ago, the Jews won a war against the Greeks even though they were outnumbered one to ten. In light of their victory, the Jews returned to the Temple. After purging it of the impurities the Greeks brought, they decided to light the Menorah to give thanks to G-d for their victory. All the oil normally used to light the Menorah had been shattered and profaned, but, after much searching, the Jews found a small jug of oil fit for the Menorah. They lit it and the scant amount of oil that was supposed to burn for one day burned for eight days instead. 

Many people are familiar with this story, as our miraculous victory and discovery of the oil was the catalyst for one of the most beloved Jewish holidays. According to non-Jews, Chanukah is quintessential to Judaism, and for good reason. Chanukah is a time to stuff yourselves silly with potato pancakes, or even better, jelly-filled donuts, all fried in oil and deliciously unhealthy, or to spend time together as a family lighting candles by the windowsill, singing songs, and playing dreidel, Jewish-inspired poker. 

Many people are jumping onto the celebration bandwagon, finding fun and outrageous ways to celebrate the holiday. In 2017, Chai Lifeline hosted a Chanukah party in Ninja-lounge, an indoor trampoline center, where they made fake snow for the participants to stomp in, slide down, or form into snowballs to throw at each other. The White House also hosts a Chanukah party every year, where they clean and purify the kitchen to ensure that the equipment is kosher so that Jewish guests can enjoy the food as well. Some people decorate their houses with over-the-top Chanukah lights and decorations, and many excited fans check their social media with bated breath, knowing that at any second a Jewish a cappella group will post the debut of an epic music video.

Six13 is an acclaimed Jewish a cappella group. Since its debut in 2003, the group has released 8 CDs, each containing original music, covers, and of course, parodies. Every year on Chanukah they team up to release a hilarious, fun, and epic parody in honor of the aforementioned holiday. They post hints and behind-the-scenes footage days or even weeks leading up to the release of their new video, creating a buildup that leaves fans hanging at the edge of their seats. Previous hits include “Bohemian Chanukah,” released in sync with the documentary of the composer behind the adapted song, “A Star Wars Chanukah,” in honor of the release of Episode IX–The Rise of Skywalker, and “A Lion King Passover,” a tribute to the live-action adaptation of The Lion King. And of course, who could forget their first viral hit, “Chanukah (Shake it off),” released in 2014. Even with the pandemic this year, things will be no different. 

“We have indeed chosen this year’s song…but we can’t give away any hints…you’ll just have to wait and see,” says Six13 member Mordy Weinstien in response to a fan’s question about their upcoming parody on a recent Q+A the group held on Reddit to connect to their fans. Six13’s videos are always worth checking out, so you might just want to.

More locally, Chai Lifeline is plowing through thick and thin to give its families an unforgettable Chanukah experience. Chai Lifeline caters to special-needs kids, many of whom are immunocompromised. While this rules out full-scale Chanukah parties like in previous years, it encourages the Chai Lifeline staff to think outside the box to give the kids the Chanukah experience they deserve. This isn’t the first event they coordinated during Covid. During the summer they released a program, “Camp Simcha Without Borders,” in lieu of the traditional Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special, the sleepaway camps they normally open during the summer for kids whose physical limitations prevent them from attending ordinary sleepaway camps. In Camp Simcha Without Borders, the Chai Lifeline staff planned fun-filled, socially-distant days for the campers living in their respective hometowns. 

This year’s Chanukah party will take place at Chabad of Emerald Hill in Hollywood. Two to three family units will be let in at a time for a ten minute session to encourage social distancing. Participants will have to sign up in advance so that they can fit all the families into the celebration. The party will take place in a tent behind the building, and the entertainment will include a DJ with fun, interactive dancing games. And, just because a family can’t stay doesn’t mean they’ll miss out on the fun.

“If you aren’t able to stay, we will bring the presents, arts and crafts, and individually packed boxes of food to your car,” says Zelda Brodowicz, a local Chai Lifeline staffer and the brains behind the event.

To conclude, in spite of the COVID-19 guidelines and the CDC restrictions enforced to keep everyone safe, Jews are still finding ways to celebrate their traditions safely. With a little creativity and flexibility, this year’s Chanukah can be celebrated with more than a Zoom meeting. Thinking outside the box can enable people to enjoy Chanukah in a safe, controlled manner. And who knows? Maybe Six13’s parody will give us the extra holiday spirit we didn’t know we needed.

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