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

“He’ll be bowling for dollars — $30,000 to be exact. Matt Hancock, 15-years-old of Lake Cowichan won in the Coca-Cola B.C. championship finals and will now bowl in the international championship with a chance to win a $30,000 scholarship. Hancock will go to the international competition in Columbus July 10. He is coached by Karen Smith of Cowichan Lake and plays on the T.G.S. bowling team.” (Lake News/May 8, 1996)
Flashback: Taxes, school district amalgamation, logging licences and student news

A look back through the pages of Lake Cowichan’s history

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Give me a brake!

It was clear that none of these drivers had done a pre-trip inspection

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read