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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Shining a Light on Hanukkah at WAM

Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, commemorates the rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of a sacred lamp putting an end to a dark period in Jewish history. The Hanukkah miracle? The lamp, which only had enough oil for one day and night, stayed lit for eight full days and nights!

In the darkness of December, we welcome the lights to brighten our homes and warm our hearts. Holiday lights—from Diwali to Christmas to Thai Floating Lanterns—show up across myriad different cultures and traditions; these festivals all invite their celebrants to spend time focusing on the joy of bringing in light to brighten our longest nights.

Last year, the Worcester Jewish Community Center (JCC) and WAM made their own Hanukkah history with a truly special celebration at the Museum for nearly 600 people who enjoyed the Hanukkah-themed art, crafts, activities, food, and story times.  JCC preschoolers sang Hanukkah songs in the Renaissance Court, the Wachusett Jazz ensemble performed, and the Chubby Chickpea food truck was a big hit—especially their mouth-watering donut holes ("sufganiyot") and cider. The holiday spirit associated with the Hanukkah lights as they glowed on an otherwise gray, snowy day was surely felt by the attendees.  

Almost immediately after last year’s successful event, we began planning our 2020 Hanukkah celebration. Unbeknownst to us, the COVID-19 pandemic attempted to foil our plans. But it could not; the community would not let that happen! Food, family, lights, and love will be guests again this year as we usher in the spirit of celebration into our lives and into our hearts—this time, in a virtual way.  

Hanukkah 2020 is calling. The JCC and WAM 2020 Hanukkah program is answering. The second Hanukkah at WAM celebration is Sunday, December 6, 11am – 2pm, on Zoom. Be sure to check out the full schedule of events, with a mix of live and recorded happenings, and plan to join us. We are thrilled that Rabbi Valerie Cohen and Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson of Temple Emanuel Sinai and Rabbi Aviva Fellman of Congregation Beth Israel will participate this year.

Throughout the virtual Hanukkah at WAM program, we will hear from five local individuals—Maxine Glassman, Ron Rosenstock, Nina Ryan, Steven Schimmel, and Wendy Wong—each sharing a “show-and-tell” story about a family menorah. From one family’s first electric menorah, to a musician’s unique harp-shaped menorah, we’ll discover more about these important personal ritual objects. 

Another highlight of the day is the collaboration of WAM’s Library with PJ Library and PJ Our Way/Young Jewish Families of Central Massachusetts. PJ Library is a free program created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that sends age-appropriate Jewish books and music monthly to families with children ages newborn to 8 years old. 

PJ Our Way is a related free program allowing older children to select their own books online. This year’s Hanukkah at WAM features three story sessions, with the first beginning at 11:45am. The readers are Mindy Hall, Outreach Director of Jewish Federation of Central MA, and Rebecca Morin, WAM’s Head Librarian.

Hanukkah at WAM also will feature a preview of the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the search to get it back), which will open in May 2021. Claire C. Whitner, Director of Curatorial Affairs and the James A. Welu Curator of European Art, will share the extraordinary story of  Dr. Richard Neumann (1879-1959), a discerning Austrian-Jewish collector committed to promoting the important role of the arts in civic life. Neumann escaped from Nazi-occupied Vienna and Paris during World War II. His family led a 50-year effort to reassemble his art collection alongside restitution advocates, provenance researchers, and museum allies.

The small fraction of his collection successfully restituted to his heirs, will be on extended loan to WAM in keeping with Dr. Neumann's lifelong desire to have great art accessible and enjoyed by the public. 

Rounding out the special virtual festivities will be an edible dreidel craft, cooking demos, a suncatcher art activity, Hanukkah music, and blessings brought to you by dozens of exceptionally talented special guests. 

Here then is the 2020 Hanukkah miracle: counting our blessings, realizing the joy of being together to celebrate, and annual lights that cannot be extinguished. While all our activities will be virtual on December 6, we hope to gather in-person next year. 

Please help make this day shine like a fully lit menorah as Worcester community partners gather to celebrate.

Pre-registration is required to participate in the Virtual Hanukkah at WAM 2020 on December 6. Register here and view the full schedule of events here

—By Emily Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Worcester Jewish Community Center. 

December 2, 2020

All images are from the 2019 Hanukkah at WAM.

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