On Sunday, Dec. 17, a unique Hanukkah celebration took place in Brookline. It was like many that are held on college campuses. There were menorahs, there was festive food and the air was full of both chatter and music (which itself was on a completely different level than singing the dreidel song). But this event wasn’t held at a university, nor even sponsored by one. This celebration took place at the combined campus of Congregation Kehillath Israel and Congregation Mishkan Tefila, also the home of the Center Makor, a Russian Jewish educational and cultural center.
It included the members of all three communities and welcomed those without a current affiliation to any. Often when we refer to “inclusion” we are seeking to find ways to eliminate barriers for specific populations who have previously been excluded from full participation. Rather than an intense focus on the inclusion of certain groups, more than 100 people were full participants at this celebration. There were multi-generational participants from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, some with mobility challenges, and participants who spoke languages other than English as their first language.
As my daughter would say, this was “a cake with a lot of ingredients.” Any good baker knows that it takes a good recipe, the right temperature and a little magic to turn “a lot of ingredients” into a uniquely delicious creation, where flavors are not lost, but rather contribute harmoniously to the resulting treat. This celebration had all three. Its “recipe” was created by three organizations, each with strong traditions. The venue and physical space were thoughtfully arranged to invite interaction. The musical program enhanced the evening, with performances from talented professionals creating a unifying experience, bringing the joy of the holiday to life. Seeing everyone enjoying themselves was more than fun; it was the magic of experiencing a truly inclusive community celebrating Hanukkah together.
If you’d like to try an authentic Hanukkah recipe with a Russian twist, I recommend what my grandfather used to call draniki (or Russian-style potato pancakes). You can make them with onion or without.