Hanukkah’s Happening at JCCby Brie Stimson November 6, 2018
Get ready for two different but equally fun events at the beginning of December, as both Hanukkah and a special CJC event called Tapestry will be a little earlier this year.
Tapestry, which was in January last year, will precede Hanukkah on the first day of the month and is a good way to get into the Jewish mindset before the holiday begins.
The next morning, on Sunday Dec. 2, the JCC will hold their annual Hanukkah Happening, which attracts well over 1,000 people from across the county each year. The event is in its 34th year. “It’s a community wide holiday extravaganza for really everybody, all ages,” says JCC preschool Director Fran Forman. She says everyone is welcome. “Many families come from across San Diego, and we set up in our gym and outdoors, and we have games and crafts and prizes. There is kosher and dairy food that’s offered, we have entertainment.”
The event also serves as a fundraiser for youth scholarships so children can participate in their summer camps and preschool. Each of the 15 preschool classes donates items for a themed gift basket that is then auctioned during the event and the money goes toward the scholarships. The themes for the baskets might be anything from princesses to Paw Patrol to Judaica. “We put these baskets together and families bid on them and many times – last year it was pretty amazing – one family bought two baskets and decided to donate all of them to families in need,” Fran says. “One mom brought two baskets and brought everything as gifts for children in Rady Children’s Hospital. She brought her children with her from the preschool so the children learn about the joy of helping others and sharing … So it’s also a giving back opportunity for us,” Fran says.
They start planning for next year’s event as soon as it ends and each year they make improvements. “What we did last year to make it a little bit different, is we focused the activities of the children on the older children a little more,” she says. “We have the preschool part dialed in and we definitely have many, many, many activities … for preschoolers, but what we were looking to do last year is to attract the older brothers and sisters of these children.”
Fran works with her partner, Sandy Siperstein-Rafner, who is the camp/youth director and many volunteers. “We have a great committee of volunteers of parents who take direct leadership roles,” Fran says. “We work in partnership with them to facilitate the Hanukkah Happening. A lot of parents of young children who are busy – they’re busy people – and they really help make this happen. We couldn’t do it without them. We have a big committee of parents who help with this.”
“We really want people to know that there is a place to go to completely celebrate Hanukkah,” Frans says of the happening. “We love our neighbors and we participate in this world, so there’s plenty of Christmas for us to participate in, but this event is exclusively Hanukkah and that’s what makes it so exciting. It’s a countywide event that we can bring children of all the ages to be during the month of December to be exclusively participating in Hanukkah activities.”
The evening before the Hanukkah Happening is Tapestry. “It’s an evening dedicated to Jewish learning and community building,” says Rabbi Lenore Bohn, director of Jlearn, which focuses on adult Jewish education. “We invite teachers from all over San Diego to each present one to two hours of a presentation on a topic they love teaching.” Attendees register for Tapestry at 6 p.m. and there’s an array of lectures they can attend. Some of this year’s topics include food justice, Lilith the precursor to Eve in the Torah, the divisiveness of Israel on college campuses, among others. “We hope that people in the community, whether or not they’re affiliated with a synagogue, will want to come and be in this learning environment in order to build community,” the rabbi says. The evening will start with a Havdalah service. “And this year because the event is happening in December, which is erev erev Hanukkah, we’re also having a latke bar with a few different kinds of latkes for people to enjoy before they begin their study.” Attendees can choose which lectures they want to attend and they will be able to listen to two, the first from 7:30 to 8:20 p.m. and the second from 8:30 to 9:20 p.m. “They can learn hopefully from a teacher they haven’t been exposed to before,” Rabbi Lenore adds. “We work very hard to invite presenters both from academic Jewish life and from the local rabbinate and cantorate and we hope that people will take classes, will sign up for sessions with people that they’ve heard about but haven’t been exposed to yet as a source of learning.” At the end of the evening there will be a dessert service where attendees can discuss and compare notes on the classes they took.
There will also be entertainment this year with Cantor Cheri Weiss and the San Diego Jewish Choir. The choir will perform during registration, at the break and during the dessert reception.
The program is “popular with people who appreciate the opportunity on a Saturday night to be exposed to big ideas and new ideas and challenging ideas,” Lenore adds. “So although we encourage the speakers to be entertaining and interactive, we want to attract people who welcome an additional opportunity in their week or month or year to be exposed to Jewish wisdom.”
In the last two years, more than 400 people have attended Tapestry each time. The program is now in its third year.
For more information on either event go to