On December 9, 2020

Local Jewish community launches food drive, focuses Chanukah celebration on “repairing the world”

With one in four Vermonters experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic, according to University of Vermont experts, the Woodstock Area Jewish Community is launching an eight-day Chanukah food drive to benefit the Woodstock community and help “Bring in the Light” to those in need.

Though Chanukah doesn’t begin until Thursday, Dec. 10, WAJC/Congregation Shir Shalom members have already placed a donation container on the lawn of their synagogue on Route 4, just west of Woodstock Union High School.  Donations will go to the Woodstock Community and Reading-West Windsor food shelves.

“Food insecurity is huge this year,” said Rich Windish, chair of the congregation’s civic engagement committee.  “Helping those families is a simple thing to do and it’s the right thing to do.”  If donors would prefer to support the drive financially, Windish said they should send checks made out to Congregation Shir Shalom with “Chanukah Food Drive” in the memo line to:  Congregation Shir Shalom, P.O. Box 526, Woodstock, VT 05091.

In addition to the food drive, Shir Shalom’s one-night traditional Chanukah party will morph into an eight-night 6 p.m. pandemic Zoom party that’s designed to delight and inspire in a different way.

Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh promises lots of singing and a conversation about “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) that focuses on food insecurity and racial injustice each night.  And there will also lots of light.  After all, she says, it’s Chanukah, when Jews kindle one more candle in their chanukiahs (menorahs) each successive evening:  one candle the first night, two the second, and so on until on Dec.17, all eight candles will fill every Zoom box with joy.

“Light is great on Zoom!” Rabbi Haigh declared.  “We did a test run and filled a screenful of Zoom boxes with little kids and parents, and with teens and adults of every age, all poised to light their candles.  It was great!  Every Zoom box lit up with all that light and all of those happy faces.”

There will be a Zoom party for children, another will be led by and for teens, and one led by the synagogue’s board, which Shir Shalom President Phyllis Forbes promises will be fun.

There will be a latkes (potato pancake) cooking contest, with chefs Zooming in from their kitchens—each claiming their recipe is the best—and another evening when “Zoomers” will be invited to join a yoga and meditation session.

Everyone is welcome to join any of the congregation’s Chanukah celebrations and to learn about other opportunities in Jewish life in the Upper Valley.  The eight-evening Chanukah schedule, including a concert with Cantor Melanie Cooperman on Tuesday night, is on the WAJC/Shir Shalom website, shirshalomvt.org.

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