"8 Crazy Nights" pop-up bar at Graystone Tavern in Chicago. by the Forward

How do you celebrate Hanukkah during a pandemic? Here are 10 virtual and socially-distant events happening around the country

Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, and this year, we could all use some.

As COVID-19 cases soar and lockdowns go back into effect around much of the country, threatening our economic livelihoods, mental health and family bonds, we can still find a way to celebrate Hanukkah together, and responsibly.

The holiday begins on Dec. 10 at sundown and concludes the evening of Dec.18. This year, communities across the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boulder, Colorado and New York, are staging online events as well as socially distant in-person programs in celebration of the holiday.

From virtual menorah lightings, to a Maccabees-themed drive-thru, from a pop-up bar to a street art festival, here’s a very Forward calendar of the best Hanukkah events.

Chag Sameach and stay safe!

Hanukkah MFA Community Celebration — Boston — Dec. 9

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston, Massachusetts holds its seventh annual Hanukkah celebration, which will be held virtually for the first time. It was listed as one of the eight best Hanukkah celebrations in the United States by marthastewart.com.

The free event, hosted in partnership with Jewish Arts Collaborative, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Consulate General of Israel to New England, features a community candle-lighting, music from singer Tamar Radah and multi-instrumentalist Hankus Netsky, a conversation with artists Moshe Zabari and Tamar Paley and the Boston Dance Theater performing “Shadows and Flame,” a new work commissioned for the MFA’s Hanukkah celebration.

The program streams on the MFA website, on Facebook and on YouTube from 6-7:15 p.m. EST. For more information, visit mfa.org/event/community-celebrations/hanukkah.

“Maccabees” Drive-Thru—Los Angeles—Dec. 9-13

Husband-and-wife Rabbi J.J. and Frumie Duchman have produced an immersive Hanukkah celebration that can be enjoyed from the safety of your car.

“Maccabees: A Drive Thru Chanukah Experience,” a live re-enactment of the Hanukkah story, is a 30-minute, COVID-safe drive-thru with live actors portraying Judah the Maccabee, King Antiochus and other figures of the story; special effects; a photo opportunity; interactive and humorous elements and more.

“With so many annual Hanukkah events cancelled, we wanted to make sure the Jewish community celebrates the Festival of Lights in its full glory while being COVID-safe,” J.J. Duchman said in an interview.

Duchman developed the idea for the drive-thru after observing similar experiences over Halloween, he said. The Los Angeles-based rabbi and rebbetzin sought to organize one specifically for the Jewish community.

They developed the event in collaboration with former employees of Universal Studios who lost their jobs during the pandemic. All of the proceeds from ticket sales benefit Power of Youth, a nonprofit founded by the husband and wife at the beginning of the pandemic that provides youth with opportunities to find joy.

“Maccabees: A Drive Thru Chanukah Experience” runs Dec. 9-13 at 240 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets, hours and additional information, visit powerofyouthla.com.

“8 Crazy Nights” Pop-Up Pub—Chicago—Through Jan. 3

Mask and drink up. For the second consecutive year, Chicago-based sports-pub Graystone Tavern is transforming over the holiday into “8 Crazy Nights,” a Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar serving “Boozy Jelly Donuts,” a “Mensch Mule” and more.

Because of indoor dining restrictions, guests of one of the first Hanukkah pop-up bars in Chicago are seated on an outdoor heated patio, decorated with festive Hanukkah décor, according to a bar manager reached by phone.

The pub launched its Hanukkah pop-up early this year, on Nov. 20, “simply because COVID has restricted virtually all other activities,” co-owner Kyle Bagley said in an email.

The food menu includes kugel, latkes, and grilled cheese on challah with tomato soup.

The drinks range from a “Gelt Martini,” made with Mozart milk chocolate liqueur, Wheatley vodka, Creme de Cacao and a powdered sugar rim, to the aforementioned “Mensch Mule,” which, with its mix of Wheatley vodka, strawberry puree, lime juice, lemon lime soda and ginger beer, is sure to help you throw all menschy inhibitions out the window. And if that doesn’t do the trick, the sufganiyot made with vodka-infused booze likely will.

“8 Crazy Nights,” located at Graystone Tavern in Wrigleyville at 3441 N. Sheffield Avenue, continues through Jan 3. For additional information, visit graystonetavernchicago.com or instagram.com/graystonetavern.

Judaism Unbound “Hanukkah Geltraiser” – Dec. 10-17

Jewish podcasting initiative Judaism Unbound convenes eight nights of digital events celebrating new ideas, reinvented ritual and community.

Beginning Dec. 10, each event features a different guest speaker, along with ritual-making led by Judaism Unbound’s Daniel Libenson and Lex Rofeberg and creative ways of lighting the menorah.

Here are a few highlights: a Dec. 11 discussion with Molly Tolsky, founder and editor-in-chief of news site Hey Alma; a Dec. 16 program with Casper ter Kulle, co-host of the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” podcast; and a Dec. 17 lecture with Sarah Benor, a professor of contemporary Jewish studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Each talk is held over Zoom. With a donation of $36, you receive an invitation with the Zoom link and password to all eight events. Proceeds support the work of Judaism Unbound, a project of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future that aims to reimagine Jewish life in the 21st century.

For more information, visit judaismunbound.com.

Skirball Hanukkah Celebration— Dec. 13

An online program organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles features the klezmer sounds of Mostly Kosher and the psychedelic funk of Israeli superstar Gili Yalo. The event also includes a candle-lighting and a puppetry performance that re-tells the age-old Hanukkah story.

Tune in on Sunday to the YouTube premiere and compete in a virtual game for prizes. The event is free and RSVPs are recommended. RSVPs will be taken through Dec. 11 at noon. The program premieres Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.

For more information, visit skirball.org/hanukkah-celebration.

Virtual Menorah Lighting—Boulder, Colorado—Dec. 10

On the first night of Hanukkah, the Boulder, Colorado community comes together for a virtual menorah lighting.

The online program features a performance from Denver musician Steve Brodsky; a live latke-cooking demonstration with chef Josh Raderman, “renowned as the best latke maker in town,” according to the Boulder JCC; dreidel games and more.

“The message of Hanukkah is the message of light. The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference,” Rabbi Pesach Scheiner, co-founder of the Boulder County Center for Judaism and a participant in the event, told Boulder Jewish News.

For the past 20 years, the annual event has taken place on Pearl Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare and beloved attraction in the picturesque Colorado town.

This year, hundreds of people are expected to tune in to the virtual program, which begins on Zoom at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time. Register at boulderjudaism.com/chanukahzoom.

Chai Lifeline’s “Chanukah City Of Lights” Drive-Thru—Baltimore— Dec. 15-16

Chai Lifeline’s mid-Atlantic region invites Maryland families to take part in a drive-thru light-show experience. Volunteers at Chai Lifeline, which serves families with children fighting a life-threatening disease, have built the displays.

For more information about the free program, visit facebook.com/chailifelineMA/

“Hanukkah Hullabaloo”—St. Louis – Dec. 12

For the past nine years, St. Louis Jews have celebrated at the annual “Hanukkah Hullabaloo,” a holiday concert party thrown by the siblings of roots-rock band Brothers Lazaroff. This year, the festivities go online.

“If the Coen brothers and Mel Brooks collaborated on a PBS Hanukkah special, that is where we are trying to fall,” David Lazaroff said of the “10th Annual Hanukkah Hullabaloo: A Virtual Miracle.” “It’s looking really good. We’re excited about it.”

Scheduled for Dec. 12, the 90-minute live-stream features Brothers Lazaroff; Jamaican record producer Lee “Scratch” Perry; Jeff Tweedy of rock band Wilco and his sons, Spencer and Sammy; Ray Benson of Grammy-winning band Asleep at the Wheel; singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman; comedian Jo Firestone; experimental poet Rabbi James Stone Goodman and others. “It is kind of a celebration of Jewish-American culture,” Lazaroff said.

Continuing an annual “Hullabaloo” tradition that began at the very first show, when the musicians of Brothers Lazaroff performed while their wives fried up latkes, this year’s program features a performance by the band, while their wives, known as the “Latke Ladies,” engage in latke frying aplenty.

“It’s just trying to make the best of the situation,” Lazaroff said.

Proceeds benefit the National Independent Venue Association, which supports independent venues and concert promoters that have suffered economic hardships during the pandemic.

The broadcast begins at 7 p.m. CST. Tickets are $10-$20. To register, visit https://www.metrotix.com/events/detail/hanukkah-hullabaloo-a-virtual-miracle.

Chabad Menorah Car Parade—Lakeview, Chicago—Dec. 12

For decades, Chabad centers around the country have been holding Hanukkah car parades with menorahs affixed to the roofs of the vehicles. The tradition dates back to 1973 when a group of Yeshiva students in New York used a car-top menorah to attract attention to their free menorah giveaway, according to Chabad.org.

This year, with people prevented from gathering in-person because of COVID-19, Chabad expects a larger turnout at its car parades than ever before, and a parade at the Chabad of East Lakeview will be one of hundreds of menorah caravans organized by Chabad-Lubavitch centers around the world.

Chabad of East Lakeview is holding its inaugural Menorah Car Parade on Dec. 12, departing from outside the Chabad’s recently purchased community center at 615-619 West Wellington Avenue at 6 p.m.

The magnetic car menorahs are free. The gas you will use is not.

Order your car menorah online from Chabad of Lakeview at jewishlakeview.com.

“Many Candles, One World”—New York – Dec. 13

“Many Candles, One World: A Virtual Chanukah Celebration” is a celebrity-filled evening of music and traditions from around the world.

Organized by Central Synagogue and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the online program takes place on the fourth night of the holiday and is raising funds to establish a WUPJ Education Fund for the Future.

Special guests include Mayim Bialik, music educator Elana Jagoda, storyteller Evan Kent, singer-songwriter Peter Yarrow, sibling vocalists Jonah and Henry Platt, musician Lisa Loeb, stage actress Sharone Sayegh and Israeli singer-songwriter Yasmin Levy.

Tune in for the program at 8 p.m. EST, or host a watch party with your friends after the broadcast. For more information, visit https://wupj.org/chanukah

“Hanukkah at Home” with Jewish Emergent Network – Dec. 16

On the seventh night, join the Jewish Emergent Network—featuring IKAR in Los Angeles; Kavana in Seattle; the Kitchen in San Francisco; Mishkan in Chicago; Sixth and I in Washington D.C.; and Lab Shul and Romemu in New York—for a free and online 30-minute program, featuring a candle-lighting, learning and singing, followed by live, light-fueled dance parties on each coast with DJs Mudfoot and Saulomite.

The website for the program offers tools for celebrating Hanukkah at home, from custom mocktails and cocktails recipes—jelly donut shots anyone?—to Hanukkah playlists. Rachel Mylan, the family music specialist at Mishkan, has created a playlist with traditional choices, such as “Ma’oz Tzur” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah,” while the “A Little Something for Everyone” playlist features tunes loosely on theme, from “Light my Fire” by the Doors to “This Year” by indie rock band the Mountain Goats.

No registration is needed for the main program, but registration is required for the dance party.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. CT and 6:30 p.m. PT. For more information, visit jewishemergentnetwork.org/hanukkah.

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2020 Jewish Street Art Festival — Across North America

Have you ever seen an “RBG Menorah,” with the body of the menorah reminiscent of the lace neckwear, known as a jabot, worn by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

You will now. Eight Hanukkah murals, including the “RBG Menorah,” are coming to cities including Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Toronto and Detroit this week as part of the 2020 Jewish Street Art Festival.

D.C.-based artist Hillel Smith is organizing the annual festival, which was reimagined this year as a decentralized art event due to COVID-19. Last year, 10 artists traveled to Jerusalem and painted 18 murals in three locations around the city; this year the artists are remaining in their home cities, and each artist or artist team is painting a Hanukkah menorah mural, linking the eight participating cities through art.

“Street art has the power to inspire new kinds of Jewish engagement while beautifying our spaces, and we hope to build a model that can spark conversations about Judaism and art for years to come,” Smith said.

Artists in Charlotte, Atlanta and Chicago are also participating.

The mural sites include Mamilla kosher restaurant in Los Angeles’ Pico-Robertson neighborhood; the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto; the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta; and Downtown Synagogue in Detroit.

The muralists include Sheina Dorn, one of the few Orthodox female muralists; Mike Wirth, a street artist, graphic designer and an associate professor of art based in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Toronto-based artist Bareket Kezwer. Wirth’s mural, painted at the Hillel at Queens University of Charlotte, is the “RBG Menorah.”

The artists began painting the murals the weekend prior to Hanukkah. Smith expects them all to be completed by Dec. 10, the holiday’s first night.

Once the murals are completed, the artists will be calling on local Jewish and civic leaders and other artists to “light” the menorah murals each night by painting in a flame.

“With the closures and cancellations of Jewish and arts programming because of COVID-19, this project will allow artists to engage their local communities,” a festival statement said.

For more information, visit jewishstreetart.com.

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How do you celebrate Hanukkah during a pandemic?

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