A young boy looks through the menorah during a lighting ceremony at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. COVID-19 is prompting Jews to find creative ways to safely celebrate Hanukkah this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A young boy looks through the menorah during a lighting ceremony at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. COVID-19 is prompting Jews to find creative ways to safely celebrate Hanukkah this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘A little bit of light:’ Jews find creative ways to observe Hanukkah during pandemic

Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight nights

From parading through the streets in menorah-adorned cars to learning to make traditional holiday treats over Zoom, Jews across Canada are finding creative ways to safely celebrate Hanukkah during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole message of Hanukkah is that a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness,” said Chana Borenstein, who co-directs the Chabad Jewish Centre of Durham Region, east of Toronto, with her husband Rabbi Tzali Borenstein.

Hanukkah, which begins Thursday at sundown, commemorates the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem after a Jewish revolt during the second century BC drove out rulers who forced the worship of Greek gods.

As the legend goes, there was only enough oil left to light the temple’s multi-branched lamp, or menorah, for one day after the victory. But, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.

Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight nights, playing with spinning tops called dreidels and eating oil-laden foods such as deep-friend potato pancakes called latkes and jelly-filled doughnuts called sufganiyot.

During a normal Hanukkah, the Chabad centre would invite dignitaries and hundreds of community members for a menorah lighting in downtown Whitby, Ont., said Borenstein.

“We had to think out of the box a little bit and change our original plans.”

This year, the Durham Chabad is one of the organizations leading a Hanukkah car parade. Participants can purchase or rent light-up menorahs to place on roofs or in windows. Flags and goody bags are also being given out.

The parade, scheduled for Monday, culminates with the lighting of a menorah and a fireworks show, safely viewed from within vehicles.

Calgary’s PJ Library, part of a global organization that provides free Jewish books to children, has put together 230 “Hanukkah at Home” bags for kids that include candles, crafts, dreidels, chocolate coins and educational materials.

In pre-pandemic times, the library’s Calgary chapter would hold a Hanukkah party for children at the local Jewish Community Centre, said manager Kathie Wainer.

This year, the library and local synagogues are teaming up to hold traditional doughnut-making lessons and storytelling sessions over Zoom.

Wainer said the switch to virtual during the pandemic has widened the reach of holiday events, making it easier for out-of-towners to be included.

“I still miss the face to face, but the fact that I can have family from Medicine Hat or from Cochrane or Canmore logging on and feeling part of the Jewish community in Calgary has been quite amazing,” she said.

“People want to celebrate and they do want to celebrate together. It’s different, but in some ways almost better.”

Wainer said she’s planning on lighting the candles with her granddaughter over Zoom this year and dropping off small gifts at her door each day.

Kehillat Beth Israel in Ottawa has eight nights of COVID-safe events planned, said Cantor Jason Green, who leads singing and chanting during services and is the synagogue’s youth director.

“We are being super-cautious for the safety of our members,” Green said.

“We are trying to do a combination of online and in-person, but distanced and very much safe, outdoors events.”

Festivities begin Thursday night with a drive-in menorah lighting at which attendees can tune in on their car radios. There’s also a “Hanukkah Hop” to admire decorated homes, musical performances and a Zoom debate between lawyers over weighty topics such as whether sour cream or apple sauce makes a better latke topping.

On the Prairies, the Jewish National Fund’s Manitoba and Saskatchewan chapter is among others offering virtual tours of the tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem, since it’s a site close to where the oil miracle took place.

Executive director David Greaves said more than 100 people will likely participate, double what was expected.

He sees parallels between the Hanukkah story thousands of years ago and how people today are managing to stay connected during the pandemic.

“Our temple has temporarily been destroyed and what are we doing? We’re using technology, which I would compare to the oil,” he said.

“Technology is our oil that’s burning right now and it’s going to last as long as we need it to do — and beyond — to get us to the other side of this.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Holidays

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)
West Shore families share experience in raising a child with autism

Two families reveal some parallels, but circumstances are different for everyone

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Hamels Fabrics & Quilting is set to open on April 6 in Sooke. The shop is located at 2044 Otter Point Road. (Mark Martins/Pixabay)
Fabric and quilting store opens doors in Sooke

Shop is filled with all kinds of ‘bright, bold and cheery’ designs

Saanich Fire Department on the scene after a car crashed into the Walmart in Uptown. (Photo courtesy Dan Wood)
PHOTOS: Saanich firefighters free trapped workers at Uptown Walmart

Incident reported as explosion after driver rammed through wall

Tiny packets of carrots ready to be distributed in Victoria. (Submitted/Victoria Seed Share)
Free Victoria seed sharing collective bags work experience funding

Fully volunteer run Victoria Seed Share will get a boost from provincial grant

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Police are investigating after a man was shot Thursday, April 8 while sitting in a car in Vancouver. (Black Press files)
Man shot in Vancouver while sitting in a parked car: police

The victim is currently in critical condition. Police say no arrests have been made.

Teachers from SD42 and other districts in the Lower Mainland flocked to Surrey on Tuesday in the hopes of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. (Sheelagh Brothers/Twitter)
Don’t line up for vaccines unless asked to come, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Social media post shows teachers lining up outside of Surrey clinic for leftover doses

Most Read