Part of a series of interviews with people in the Metrowest Jewish community.

by Julie Wolf, Jewish Family Network

For the past three years, our North-area connector, Amy Kohen, and her husband, Doug, have hosted a Chanukah potluck, welcoming Jewish Family Network families into their Sudbury home to celebrate the holiday and enjoy the community Amy has had a hand in building. Amy has been with JFN for three years, since her daughter Ellie was a newborn. Since then her family has grown to include daughter Lucy, and her dedication to the Jewish community has grown along with it.

Your potluck Chanukah party has become a yearly event for JFN. Is it something you and Doug have always done, or did you start the tradition when you started at JFN?

I’ve always loved entertaining. I stopped catering professionally after Ellie was born in 2009, so I always look for a good reason to host an event at our home. It’s also very important for Doug and me to teach Ellie and Lucy about the Jewish holidays. And of course in teaching, we want her to have FUN with it, so why not throw a party?!

We did start our Chanukah potluck since I’ve been working with JFN, and it’s been popular and a wonderful way to bring together some people who haven’t met but obviously have the holiday in common. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to teach Ellie and soon Lucy how to make some killer latkes!

What sort of responses have you gotten to your party? Do you find that people are shy about attending if they’ve only met you briefly at events?

I’ve had a good response so far, both from families that I know well or families that I haven’t met at all! It’s a very casual evening and of course gets a little out of hand with all the kids. But children don’t know that certain parents don’t know each other. They just want to have a fun night, so I think that helps the parents relax a little. And there’s always plenty to chat about.

Last year we had about seven families, which was perfect. Toward the end of the evening, one of the fathers started reading a story in the playroom, and all the children gathered around him, climbing over each other to see the pictures and get a closer look. It was such a simple gesture that really represented what the whole evening was all about.

Lucy is still a baby, so you have a couple more years before Chanukah hits her with full force, but how do you explain Chanukah to Ellie? Is she about the gifts at this point, or does she like the traditions best? It seems that once the kids come into contact with Christmas through friends, it’s harder to explain to them that Chanukah is not really a Jewish Christmas.

Ellie spent last year at the JCC preschool in Wayland. Through lots of music, amazing teachers, and great friends, she has grown to love the Jewish holidays. At this point, Chanukah starts and ends with menorahs and the “Driedel, Driedel, Driedel” song. When we’re home for Shabbat dinners, Ellie typically takes out the menorah, as well as the candlesticks and wine cup. We do spend many afternoons when it gets dark driving around looking at the “pretty lights,” but their meaning hasn’t come up yet. I think we have one more year.

You’ve been with JFN for close to three years now, and recently you took on more responsibility in the program. Why is JFN important to you, and what do you hope you can do for other Jewish families in the area who you meet as a connector through JFN?

Since having children, it’s been important to me to develop relationships with other moms in the community as well as develop my relationship with the Jewish community. I’m also on the board of Sudbury Family Network and work consistently with the Women’s Philanthropy branch of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. It’s so important to build a support network while raising children. It has really helped to keep me grounded. I’m laid-back, and I hope that my casual approach makes people feel more comfortable and hopefully lets people put their guards down and just start a relationship with a simple conversation.

Amy and her family would love you to join them at their potluck. Please contact her for more information about her party or Jewish Family Network programming at akohen@jfsmw.org.

 

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