Beth El in Bethesda reconsiders latkes vs. hamantashen

A Chanukah bear, like the one inside the synagogue, stands in front of Senior Rabbi Greg Harris’ house.

Chanukah is a big deal at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda.

Between now and the end of the month, congregants will gather to debate — and eat — the holiday’s delicacies, watch movies and light the chanukiyah.

“It really feels like now is the time to reconnect and reenergize. There is such a feeling of heaviness in our lives now,” said Senior Rabbi Greg Harris. “Chanukah is about rededicating, so we rededicate ourselves to our values.”

The synagogue on Old Georgetown Road is holding its 15th annual Latke-Hamantashen Debate on Dec. 18 at 10 a.m.. “It is funny and serious in the most comical way to debate which is the better delicacy,” Harris explained.

Debaters include Marissa Greenberg, a professor of Shakespeare; Lisa Gunty, rabbi acolyte; Warren Leonard, physician/scientist; and Mark Milner, medical historian.

“It is filled with frivolity,” Harris said of the event.

Rabbi Emeritus Bill Rudolph will emerge from retirement briefly to emcee the event and declare the winner, which he has called a tie every time for the past 14 years.

Following the debate, the two foodstuffs under discussion will then be consumed.

The congregation will light the chanukiyah on the first night of the holiday on Dec. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the synagogue parking lot.

Activities and games geared for children from kindergarten through fifth grade will follow.

The outdoor candle lighting will continue each evening throughout the holiday.

Hazzan Asa Fradkin is holding Latkes and Vodka night on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. There will be an international gelt bar to help celebrate Chanukah around the globe, a donut bar and latke bar as well as vodka pairings and a live band.

Come Christmas, there will be movies and the customary meal of Chinese food. The films will include ones for children.

“It’s become an annual tradition,” the rabbi said.

Also, the synagogue’s monthly lunch for its older adults on Dec. 15 will celebrate the Festival of Lights. The Senior Caucus Chanukah lunch enables participants to celebrate as a community.

Meanwhile, decorating the synagogue in the atrium by the preschool is a giant, inflatable Chanukah bear with a dreidel. “The kids love it,” Harris said.

In the spirit of Beth El’s Chanukah fun times, the bear is lovingly called “Maccadubi.”

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