Around OneTable: Shabbanukkah Edition with JDC Entwine, Modern Ritual, and REALITY
It is almost Hanukkah, and, even better, Shabbanukkah! We’ve talked a lot at OneTable about what food to serve, how to gather, which candles to light first, the meaning of the festival, and more. This year we wanted to join with some of our community and dig even deeper.
We had an incredible time gathering with folks from OneTable, JDC Entwine, Modern Ritual, and REALITY covering topics from latke recipes, modern miracles to the lack of solid Hanukkah music (which we try to remedy!)
With thanks to our partners at JDC Entwine, we also talked about themes of Hanukkah and shedding light on global Jewish communities that we might not often see. Scroll down to read on!
Who We Are:
Andrew Belinfante – JDC Entwine Director of Engagement
Samantha Frank – 1/2 of Modern Ritual, rabbinical student at HUC
Analucia Lopezrevoredo – OneTable Associate Director of West Coast Programs, JDC Entwine alum
Rabbi Josh Mikutis – JDC Entwine Jewish Learning Designer
Zoe Plotsky – OneTable Associate Director of Brand Strategy and Corporate Sponsorships and JDC Entwine alum
Al Rosenberg (moderator) – OneTable Director of Communications & Marketing
Carli Roth – JDC Entwine and Schusterman REALITY Alumni Participant (Inside India 2018)
Rena Singer – 1/2 of Modern Ritual, rabbinical student at HUC
Jumping right into a controversial topic: How do you spell Chanukah/Hanukkah/etc? (And is there a reason behind your spelling?)
Carli: Oooh good question.
Zoe: H A N U K K A H – IDK why.
Al: ^ the official OneTable spelling.
Andrew: I’m with Zoe. It’s Hanukkah!
Rabbi Josh: I’m on team “Ch”
Zoe: I think the CH can be off putting to folks who don’t celebrate. How do you pronounce it????
Analucia: When texting my family, it’s ALWAYS Januca…or if I’m feeling fancy, Janucah… the other spellings don’t translate in Español. But If I’m spelling it to be understood in any other language I write Hanukkah.
Samantha: Joining Josh on team Ch.
Carli: I think it depends how religious and what sect of Judaism you grew up with?
Samantha: But also, as long as you don’t double all the letters (Hannukkah) I’m down for whatever
Zoe: Honestly I don’t know – where did these spellings come from? Is there a religious correlation?
Andrew: Time magazine’s “Is There a Right Way to Spell Hanukkah? Chanukah? Hannukah?”
While we’re debating: Sweet potato or regular potato or no latkes?
Samantha: Regular potato latkes!!! But I learned last year that the OG Chanukah latke is actually fried CHEESE?? EXTREMELY excited.
Andrew: Honestly, I just bought the Trader Joe’s latkes and they are DELICIOUS. I have been testing them out in preparation for the holiday. But they have cauliflower ones too!
Zoe: Spiralized sweet potato latkes.
Samantha: Here’s my latke source: The Atlantic’s “Everything You Know About Latkes Is Wrong”
Rabbi Josh: I’ll be leading a trip to Cuba next week– excited to report back about any special latke options!
Analucia: I am a sweet potato AND yucca latke lovah (not necessarily those two root veggies mixed together)… But real talk I would probably feel especially loving towards Sufganiyot if I weren’t a celiac.
Carli: I loved making my first menorah in preschool – we still have it.
Al: Carli, woah! what did you make it out of?!
Carli: It was a wood block with screws. Real creative, but simple art project!
Samantha: I made that one too, Carli!!
Zoe: I ordered a menorah on Amazon last year. It’s not beautiful, but it gets the job done. Though tbh I think I’ve lit at home once. Doesn’t feel the same without a community around me?
Carli: I agree, Zoe. The people lighting the menorah is what makes it so special. Remind me difference of menorah and hannukiah?
Samantha: Menorah is the 7 lamp thing, originally in the Temple — hannukiah has 9 special for Chanukah.
Candles play an important role for many cultures in winter (and for Jews, every week at Shabbat, but more so for Hanukkah). What are some of the areas of your work/life that you want to illuminate?
Samantha: In terms of Modern Ritual we are hoping to ILLUMINATE what it can be to live a Jewish life that opposes so much of the mainstream Jewish imagery: women in tefillin, not only white people/ashkenormativity, you don’t have to TOTALLY shut off for Shabs in order to “do Shabbat.”
Analucia: Hanukkah was never a winter experience for my family (it comes towards the end of spring/early summer in Peru), it was never really about needing physical light and rather reigniting our spiritual light. Since Hanukkah is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for “dedication,” lighting candles represents to me the opportunity to dedicate and rededicate myself to various things I am passionate about!
Andrew: I love this question. I think we are living in a time where we need light more than ever. It’s an opportunity not only to spread warmth in our communities, but it’s also an opportunity to open our world views and create awareness around the things people sometimes don’t see.
Samantha: Yes. Andrew, how can we listen, and stand up for justice, and also listen and not alienate people with whom we disagree? What happened to fighting l’shem shamayim?
Zoe: What is l’shem shamayim?
Samantha: L’shem shamayim is “for the sake of heaven.”
Rabbi Josh: I agree with Andrew. So much of what we do at JDC Entwine is to try to raise awareness about the experiences of Jews across the globe which can then be the first building block to creating and fostering cross-cultural, transatlantic, transpacific, etc, relationships.
Andrew: The question of disagreement and community building go hand in hand I think. I am not sure when doing justice work, or spreading light, that we can afford to see them separately.
Zoe: This is a question I also ask when lighting Shabbat candles. Even after hosting 50+ Shabbat dinners with OneTable, I can still feel uncomfy with candle lighting as a practice. So I often frame this to my guests – where do we need light in this world and how can we as a community shine there?
Carli: I love that, Zoe. Especially now. How can we light candles with intention, while simultaneously focusing on receiving gratitude for what we have?
Samantha: What makes you uncomfortable about the lighting?
Zoe: I still use electronics on Shabbat, so the practice of lighting up the room doesn’t really sit with me. I light a candle almost every night before bed, but it’s a solo practice and there’s no corresponding blessing. I break bread and drink wine with friends often (okay, daily), so it doesn’t feel hard to add a blessing or that extra level of intention to that ritual.
Samantha: Thanks for sharing! I use electricity on Shabbat too – and sometimes the lighting for me is just an amazing moment of transcendence, feeling connection with so many women all over the world who have done this practice before me.
Zoe: I LOVE THIS – the connection to women across the world. I’ve truly never thought about it that way.
Speaking of highlighting different communities and ways of viewing tradition, let’s talk about Entwine’s Films from the Field Toolkit. How did it come about and what are the dreams about how it will be used?
Andrew: Our Films from the Field Toolkit was actually created with the intention of doing exactly what we are talking about. We, at JDC Entwine, wanted to highlight global communities in order to ensure their stories could be told. With that in mind, we created a resource guide for people to watch and discuss films about those communities. It’s a Do It Yourself Toolkit, so you can watch it at home with friends, host a film screening, and more! The films we chose shed light on the ways people abroad live their lives, both Jewish and otherwise. We hope people download these and begin thinking about and discussing, how to build compassion, awareness, understanding, and more around our global community.
Rabbi Josh: I’ve been thinking about how winter is often a time of hibernation– people want to snuggle up on their couches with a warm beverage and pretend like it’s not 0 degrees outside. With the film toolkit, I think we’ve found a way for people to have that kind of intimate, cozy experience- and still build bridges and raise their own awareness about the world beyond their door.
Carli: [Traveling to and learning about other communities] reminds me that Judaism is so much bigger than each of us individually, and that the core we’re all the same, and the beauty of traditions celebrated all over the world are what keep the Jews strong. We’re committed to them and everything they stand for.
Andrew: Both Hanukkah and Shabbat are important opportunities for really accessing stories of the people around our tables and the world. There are so many overlapping themes here and by building awareness and starting dialogues, we know people can build deeper and more meaningful communities with one another.
Zoe: I feel like I can’t stop sharing this, but I was so inspired by the Jewish community I just got back from visiting in Ahmedebad. There were 160 of them in a huge city in a huge country, and they are still choosing to be Jewish. They don’t need to hold on to that identity, but they do. Seeing that, during a time when I’m really leaning into my Jewish identity, held so much power for me. And it made me want to do more, at home, to dive into that
Let's chat Hanukkah story: What sticks with you the most from the story? Are there hidden parts to the Hanukkah story we can shed light on?
Rena: People often get confused- what’s the miracle? The military victory? Or the oil? Both are the miracle! The oil part comes later because the military victory is a bit violent…to me this sheds light on the way in which we can re-envision our stories sometimes to align with our values!
Andrew: For me, the story is at its core about resilience and it highlights so much of the resilience of the Jewish community and Jewish people. These communities, and Hanukkah, remind me when I am traveling with Entwine for work, that I am a part of a much larger narrative, and community, that is in so many ways defined by its resilience. I am really proud to be a part of that history and really lucky that my job takes me to places where I continue to see that strength in the world.
Rabbi Josh: Maybe more of a historical note, but the piyut (liturgical poem), “Maoz Tzur”, originates in an Ashkenazic context but is one of the only Ashkenazi piyutim to migrate to the Sephardic canon. For me, it’s interesting to think about how cultural touchstones travel back and forth to create a fascinating mosaic. Also, everyone should listen to Sufjan Stevens’ instrumental version!
Rena: A big part of Hanukkah is publicizing the miracle! There is a tradition that tells us to put the hanukkiah in the window so that everyone can see it. To me, this is about spreading light and the ability to see miracles in the world.
Andrew: I love that. The windows for me also represent the connections of the light and our candles to each other. Part of why I go to my window is not just to light my candles, but to look at the other windows on my block, or in my neighborhood, and remind myself just how much I am a part of something bigger.
What does "miracle" mean to you all, and how might we look at miracles in the modern day?
Samantha: To me, miracles are small moments of wonder that the world so often functions the way it does. A FLOWER BLOOMS ? Like WHAT? We get water from CLOUDS ? In the Sky? Gravity? WHAT?! Maybe, for me, it’s awe and wonder at the scientific realities of my life!
Rabbi Josh: One of the films in our Toolkit, Joe’s Violin, is about a Holocaust survivor and his violin and where it gets donated in New York City’s instrument recycling program 60 years post World War II. There is a miracle not only in the act of survival, but how something like a musical instrument can cross oceans and generations and continue to bring light at times of so much darkness.
Rena: Love that question! I think miracles can be small and big. On some days, crossing the street safely in NYC is a small miracle. Modern medicine is a big miracle. It’s about looking at the world around us and labeling things as miracles so we don’t take them for granted.
Analucia: To me the miracle of Hanukkah is that we STILL get to tell the story. Think about how many cultures have forcefully lost their stories due to assimilation, genocide, war. MY GOODNESS…after all these years HINEINI, HERE I AM each year to ensure this story gets told and passed down. That’s a miracle.
What are your Hanukkah traditions?
Rena: I just love having people over to light candles and eat latkes. It’s fun, easy, and delicious. And the feeling of everybody being warm inside and bathed in the light of the Hanukkah candles is incredible.
Al: For me – my mother is blind, and so the festival of lights definitely takes on a different meaning. But we love to light multiple menorahs and stand near them with our eyes closed and feel the warmth around them and imagine all the hearts being warmed by the holiday.
Andrew: That is incredibly moving. I am now thinking about what it means to shed light, when sight isn’t a starting point. What are the other ways we can “see” the world? We have so many opportunities to connect, hear stories, learn about people’s cultures, etc and I am moved that that can happen with all of our senses.
Zoe: I’m actually now thinking about hearing, listening, empathy. How that is so central to making an impact.
Andrew: I love the idea of “A Hanukkah of Empathy.” How would we behave if that was our purpose, or our ritual, for 8 days?
Rena: Yes! Also- we need to step up our Hanukkah music game. This is something I feel passionately about. We need some great new Hanukkah songs that everyone can sing together (or if there are ones people already love, they need to become more famous!).
Rabbi Josh: This is on repeat for me: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, “8 Days of Hanukkah” I’m forcing Andrew to listen to it with me right now
Al: Haha, I think that’s a great place to pause and say: Thank you all so much for joining us!!!
We’re feeling the Hanukkah love over here, and we want you all to join the conversation. Email us, leave a comment below, share on socials, get the Entwine toolkit and host a OneTable Films from the Field Shabbanukkah!