Lights glowed brightly last weekend as area synagogues gathered for Hanukkah Homecoming, a coordinated holiday celebration in English-speaking countries, plus Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine and Poland.
“It was a call to announce that we are coming back to our shuls,” said Rabbi Danny Zemel of Temple Micah, one of the local synagogues to participate. The goal of the events was “to move the Jewish community past COVID. We are being cautious as we move to re-gather.”
Temple Micah members gathered under a tent for a holiday Shabbat service that included songs and storytelling. Members wore special glasses that turned the lights around them into stars. In keeping with the post-COVID theme, the service was not streamed. You had to be there.
During Hanukkah Homecoming, alliteration overflowed like jelly from sufganiyot. Tikvat Israel Congregation celebrated both Hanukkah in the Hood — with an oversized menorah being lit in a different Rockville/Olney neighborhood on each of the eight nights — and Dreidels and Donuts, which also included candle lighting and singing.
Tifereth Israel Congregation, in the District, held a Chanukah Extravaganza, with food, live music, kids’ crafts and a wine bar. “Something for everyone,” the synagogue promised.
Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria held its own Hanukkah in the Hood and enjoyed an outdoor a cappella concert.
Hanukkah Homecoming was the brainchild of Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University. The weekend was an opportunity “to celebrate not simply the holiday, but what we have all missed so much — our relationships with each other,” he said in a statement.
“Ron thought it was time to rededicate ourselves to Jewish life — face to face, people being together,” said Zemel, who was an adviser to the project.
In the project’s earliest stages, planners wanted to stage a homecoming during the high holidays. “Then delta came along,” Zemel said.
So they postponed the event, but only for so long.
“Since Chanukah is the time of rededication, we said, ‘Let’s do it at Chanukah,’” Zemel said. “’We’re all going to be vaccinated and masked. Let’s not put it off again.”