With people eager for community experiences, more than 300 congregations, JCCs, Federations, schools, camps, independent minyanim and Jewish organizations are mounting gatherings this Hanukkah marking a worldwide rededication of relational communities. Under the banner, Hanukkah Homecoming, events around the world are being held onsite and online November 28 – December 5, 2021, inviting those engaged and those not-yet-engaged to connect with community and each other.
“This Hanukkah is such a unique moment as Jewish communities begin returning to a sense of normalcy right at this festive, communal, and family-oriented holiday,” says Dr. Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University, who is leading the initiative. “There is something for everyone. Hanukkah Homecoming events are an opportunity to be a part of something greater, special, an exciting opportunity to celebrate not simply the holiday, but what we have all missed so much—our relationships with each other. The message is ‘reunite around the light’ and ‘come home.’”
A wide variety of gatherings are posted at hanukkahhomecoming.org—everything from celebrations, services, rituals, meals, festivals, community art projects, concerts, and candle lightings. Anyone looking to connect can filter for onsite and online gatherings in their geographic region and by types of experiences they seek.
“What an awesome equation to bring together the Jewish community from all over into our synagogues and organizational homes for a grand homecoming after all this time,” adds Rabbi Elaine Zecher, senior rabbi of Temple Israel, Boston, a participant in Hanukkah Homecoming. “The opportunity to do this together, across the world, truly adds up to a beautiful experience of holiness wherever we find ourselves.”
Wolfson was inspired to launch Hanukkah Homecoming after learning that during the late 1800’s churches in the South invented an annual “homecoming” event, a reunion of members and former members. “To quote a favorite song, the invitation was ‘get back to where you once belonged,’” Wolfson quips. He began circulating the idea of marking the emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic with a “homecoming” that quickly spread from synagogues to nearly every corner of the global Jewish community with a who’s who of partner organizations eager to open their doors to anyone looking for meaningful connection after nearly two years in isolation.
Organizations are invited to join the Hanukkah Homecoming network by registering at hanukkahhomecoming.org. Organized by the Kripke Institute’s Center for Relational Judaism, the initiative is supported by a JCRIF grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and the Maimonides Fund.