Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn and his wife, Raizy, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wyoming in Jackson Hole, made 100 matzah balls for Chanukah. That’s so they can serve up hot bowls of matzah-ball soup during the snowy days ahead. They have also been making potato latkes and doughnuts, and have menorahs and chocolate gelt on hand for the loads of locals and visitors looking for Jewish activities during the holiday.
“Matzah-ball soup is a distinctly Jewish food at a distinctly Jewish holiday celebration, and we wanted things to be very Jewish as we celebrate at this time of year,” says the rabbi. “We’ve been getting tons and tons of snow over here, and are enjoying a lively Chanukah.”
Their “freedom menorah”—decked out in all kinds of Americana—will also make its Chanukah debut, after being first showcased at an area Fourth of July parade. And that’s just one of many lightings they’ll be sharing with area residents and guests.
They are holding a Chanukah party at an area home on Dec. 29 and will host a children’s program as well, after the Kids Club was busy earlier this month learning about the holiday, planning dreidel and savoring the potato latkes made by Raizy Mendelsohn.
They’ve already taken part in an annual Chanukah celebration in the state’s capital, Cheyenne, with elected leaders at the governor’s residence. The event, now in its ninth year, was scheduled ahead of the holiday to avoid conflicts with winter break.
The pre-Chanukah celebration was held on Dec. 19, which corresponded to the 19th day of Kislev, the date in 1798 that the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was freed from imprisonment in czarist Russia. That meant a chance to talk about not only the miracle of Chanukah, but also the miracle of chassidus.
A menorah made out of skis, similar to one at the Chabad center in Vail, Colo.
Mendelsohn also spoke about the miracle of the 100 people gathered there in Wyoming for the holiday, and their ability to shine a light in a dark and challenging world. Members of the Cheyenne Youth Symphony played Chanukah and Jewish songs, and Holocaust survivor Zolly Gancz helped light the menorah. Gov. Matt Mead and his wife, Carol, attended along with other communal leaders.
Mendelsohn says he’s enthusiastic about providing a way for Jews in the area to take part the holiday: “We want to emphasize during this time of year the special components the Jewish tradition has to offer in terms of values, ideals and traditions for our community.”
‘Message of Tolerance and Freedom’
A menorah made from aspen trees by the St. Regis Deer Valley, the venue for a Chanukah event that features two cantors coming in from New York.
Rabbi Yudi Steiger, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Park City, Utah, with his wife, Devori, is looking forward to welcoming people who are missing menorah-lightings in their local communities because of end-of-year travel. Given their location in a major skiing hub, they also have a kosher restaurant that will be offering ski-in and ski-out kosher dinners.
Two rabbinical students will join them this year giving out menorah kits and dreidels at the base of the mountain as people come skiing down the slopes, says Steiger. They are also holding a Dec. 28 “Chanukah on Broadway” event at the St. Regis Deer Valley, featuring Cantor Aryeh Leib Hurwitz and Cantor Zevy Steiger coming in from New York, who will sing a mix of Broadway and Jewish tunes. The event is expected to bring in 150 to 200 people—almost double the usual crowd—with families bringing children along, and glow-in-the-dark face-painting and crafts to keep them entertained, not to mention the traditional holiday foods.
“We’ll be lighting the menorah when it’s cold and dark, and the little flame, the little candle, will be lit and standing tall,” says the rabbi. “Whatever we go through, the flame, the light, is ahead of us.” On Dec. 31, they are holding a Havdalah service and menorah-lighting at the kosher restaurant, with Chanukah songs and traditional foods.
Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wyoming, offers hot food on a cold night at a Chanukah menorah-lighting in Jackson Hole.
Rabbi Mendy and Chaya Greenberg, co-directors of the Mat-su Jewish Center Chabad Lubavitch in Wasilla, Alaska, have been working on making Chanukah even bigger for the Jewish community there. The couple, who moved to Alaska last year, will erect 9-foot menorahs on the main streets in Wasilla and Palmer, cities about 20 minutes from each other. They also put up a 6-foot menorah in the local hospital.
The Greenbergs held a Chanukah festival in Palmer last year that they hoped would draw 75 to 100 people. Nearly 300 people turned up, including Mayor Bert Cottle of Wasilla and Mayor DeLena Johnson of Palmer, along with several state
senators. This year, they’re returning to the Palmer Train Depot—a historic
building and event venue—for a Chanukah event on Dec. 28, where local dignitaries will help light the menorah. Also on tap that night: an Israeli-style buffet with falafel, a “make-your-own-doughnut” station, a dreidel bounce house, Chanukah crafts and a performance by the Jewish Kids Club.
The message of Chanukah—of adding light, physically and literally—is a universal one, pronounces the rabbi. “We sometimes live in such a cold, dark world,” says Greenberg. “We are here to bring the warmth and light of Chanukah, and the message of tolerance and freedom to all.”
Members of the Kids Club in Wyoming learn about Chanukah traditions, while playing dreidel and eating latkes.
Raizy Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Wyoming, fries up potato latkes for the children as part of the Chabad-run program.
At the 2015 Chanukah menorah-lighting and family event are, from left: Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, co-director of the Mat-su Jewish Center Chabad Lubavitch in Wasilla, Alaska, with his father, Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, director of the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Alaska in Anchorage; Mayor of Wasilla Bert Cottle; Mayor of Palmer DeLena Johnson; Chaya Greenberg, co-director of the Wasilla Chabad; and Esther Greenberg, co-director of the Anchorage Chabad.
The event last year took place at the historic Palmer Train Depot, the same venue for this year’s area Chanukah festivities.
Attended by hundreds, the celebration came with an olive-oil demonstration.