Taking Dreidel for Spin in Heart of Brooklyn's Hipster Heaven for Hanukkah

'Knishioner' Rules You Don't Have To Be Jewish To Play


By Jared T. Miller

Published December 01, 2013, issue of December 06, 2013.
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The crowd leaned in closer toward the game table as the competitors nervously practiced spinning techniques before the final round of the first Major League Dreidel tournament of the 2013 season. But something wasn’t quite right.

“I know exactly what this needs,” said Eric Pavony, 34, founder and self-styled “knishioner“ of Major League Dreidel, before heading to the front of Full Circle Bar, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, on Monday, November 25.

By the time the first of its metallic chords came crashing down, it was clear that Pavony’s decision to cue up a heavy-metal cover of “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” was the right one. The mood was set, and it was finally time for the competition to begin.

“Most people, when they kind of grow out of being a kid, they put the dreidel in their rearview mirror and never look back,” Pavony said. Enter Major League Dreidel, the competitive spinning competition that he created in 2007.

“Here they are, coming out to a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; they have a beer in one hand and a dreidel in the other, and they’re staring down their competitor across the Target Tops table, and it’s on.

This year’s 16-team tournament, dubbed “Thanks-spinning,” involved a complicated game called Target Tops, a mash-up between cornhole, shuffleboard and, of course, dreidel. The game board is segmented into zones that are each given a dreidel letter indicating a gradually higher point value and culminating in a recessed cup at the end of the table in an area marked with a gimmel. A dreidel that stops spinning on the same letter of the zone it lands in earns twice the number of points. The Holy Grail is a move that Pavony dubbed “the spinny-dip”— a dreidel spin that dances around the gimmel cup at the end of the table before falling in for the highest spin score possible.


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