DID JEW KNOW: You Can Celebrate Hanukkah Meaningfully as Adult

did jew know

One of the things I hear adults struggle with when it comes to Hanukkah is that it is largely a holiday for kids. It involves presents, dreidel games, chocolate coins, and some very interesting a capella remixes. And while of course adults can and do enjoy these kitchy aspects of the holiday, they may not necessarily engage us for long or at all (I mean, how many latkes can one eat over eight whole days? Have you actually tasted gelt?!). 

Plus, the story itself (as is often told to children) is rather simplistic when you think about it. A small band of righteous rebels defeat an evil empire and the oil of the menorah miraculously lasted for eight days when it should have just lasted for one. It makes for a great tale, but it might not hold the same meaning as we get older, when we realize that things usually aren’t so straightforward; be they about politics, war, theology, and even hope.  

For those of us in our 20s and 30s, what can Hanukkah mean to us now? How can we celebrate it in a way that is meaningful, relevant, and inspiring? 

This year, I ran a two-part “Hanukkah Deep-Dive” series for people asking this very question. We came up with a variety of ideas, which I’ll get to below. 

First, we studied ancient texts about Hanukkah, going back to where it all began, so to speak. Two main ideas stood out as having the potential to guide us to newly adapted mature Hanukkah, namely, how and where we light the Hanukkah candles. 

How to Light the Menorah

When it comes to Hanukkah traditions, perhaps the most substantial one we can revisit as adults is lighting the menorah. It’s beautiful, it’s got fire, it’s DIY, and its meaning runs deep. 

The ritual of how to light menorah began with the rabbis in the Talmud, a compilation of Jewish law and debate that was collected in the first couple of centuries, CE. This was long after the Maccabees had won the war and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem by the way. 

When it came to decide how to light the candles of the menorah, (the lingering piece of the Hanukkah story that could be done at home) two major scholars, Hillel and Shammai had a disagreement.

Shammai said that we should begin with eight candles on the first day and subsequently decrease the number of lights as the days go on until we only have one left.

Hillel on the other hand, said that we should begin with one candle and add one more each night until we have eight lights on the last day. The latter is the tradition we’ve come to observe. But, why? 

The reason given by the Talmud is that “One elevates in matters of sanctity rather than downgrades.”

In our class, we discussed how to make sense of this ritual from an emotional and psychological point of view. Hillel’s approach of adding light, many noticed, can help us feel a sense of movement from utter darkness to a place of increased brightness, presence, and visibility. It’s no wonder that Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, takes place during the darkest time of year. When it’s dark, we crave light, we crave seeing and being seen, we crave knowing that things can get better. Lighting the menorah Hillel’s way reminds us that it’s possible to find sources of light within and without, even in the midst of dark and scary times. 

By starting with just one light, we also acknowledge that the seeds of change can start out rather humbly, rather than showing up suddenly as a fiery blaze. It’s up to us to pause, notice the small light, and embrace its unassuming energy. By spreading the amount of light each day (literally and figuratively), we embody the idea that when we or someone else brings light into the world, it can quickly catch on and gain momentum. Our individual acts of love and kindness can spread to another, then another, and then another, which in turn, can turn into that fiery blaze of goodness. 

And even though most people in our class preferred Hillel’s approach, there were a few who preferred Shammai’s. After all, if the menorah in the ancient Temple was lit up, it would have had all of its branches on fire at once, with declining light as the days went on as the oil slowly ran low. Shammai’s approach seems to have been more of a reenactment of the miracle. But what’s inherent in his approach is that as much as darkness can make us feel alone, depressed, even afraid, this method underscores that moments of uncertainty can also contain holiness, unleashed potential.

His message was, “Don’t let fear drive you from what you don’t know or can’t yet see. Be patient and trust yourself.” 

Where to Light the Menorah

Realizing the relevance behind both of these messages, we connected them to the main mitzvah (commandment) of lighting the menorah, which we discussed at length. The mitzvah, according to the Talmud, is to light the menorah in a place where anyone can see it from the street, be it outside our homes or on a windowsill. The main goal is to publicize the miracle and not just keep it to ourselves. 

When it comes to what the miracle actually was or represents, there are different ways one can see it. At the heart of it, is that the Maccabees, who had no reason to believe that there would be enough oil to last more than one day, decided to light the menorah with what they had anyway. Maybe they were naive, maybe desperate. Both are possible. But regardless, they decided better to have some light in the world than no light at all. And with that one decision, they were met with unexpected result. 

For some, putting the menorah in a window or entrance to one’s home (or online) is about exercising religious freedom and showing up proudly as Jews and that’s important. It can also be about spreading hope to those who need it most, regardless of background. It can be sharing light with those who are outside in the dark and see our lights within and those of us lighting the candles within who can share them with others. But, more than anything, we should make sure we are actually living out the message behind this ritual every day. Then, I think we’ve reclaimed Hanukkah as adults for our time. 

How to Live the Message of the Menorah

  • Do a selfless act of kindness for different friends and strangers each day of the holiday and reflect on it with others. 
  • Reach out to people you don’t know well, who you’ve been meaning to reach out to like a neighbor or new co-workers, even invite them to a Hanukkah gathering. Invite them into conversation about hope and rededication, or different familial traditions and heritages. 
  • Since Hanukkah is about rededicating sacred space (Hanukkah means dedication), rededicate yourself to something or someone that is sacred to you. How can you uplift that part of your life this year? Get a group of friends together and share your goals, see how you can support one another in your rededications. 

If you have any questions about the above or want more ideas on how to make Hanukkah more inspiring to you as an adult – email me at Wishing you a very happy, as well as meaningful and relevant, Hanukkah.



About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.






The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

DC Hanukkah Guide 2019


Ah Hanukkah, that magical winter holiday that brings about the feistiest of debates about sour cream and applesauce, epic dreidel tournaments (because that’s a thing that probably happens somewhere), and classic Adam Sandler carols to sing ‘round the fire.

So, whether you spell it Hanukkah, Chanukah, Hannukkah, or Chanukkah (we’re going with Hanukkah), we can all agree that dreidels are not made out of clay.

Anyway, here’s a roundup of some awesome DC Hanukkah parties, recipes, and gift ideas for your best Hanukkah ever.

P.S. Don’t see your event listed? Add it here.

P.P.S. This list will be regularly updated, so please check back for new events and celebrations.

Pre-Hanukkah Events

Saturday, December 14

Sunday, December 15

Monday, December 16

Tuesday, December 17

Wednesday, December 18

Thursday, December 19

Friday, December 20

Saturday, December 21

Hanukkah: December 22 – December 30

December 22, 2019

December 23, 2019

December 24, 2019

December 25, 2019

December 26, 2019

December 27, 2019

December 28, 2019

December 29, 2019

December 30, 2019


Hanukkah Recipes

Hanukkah Blogs

Hanukkah Songs

Happy Hanukkah DC: From Our Stomachs To Yours

The Festival of Lights has finally arrived! What better way to celebrate this holiday than inhaling as many latkes, donuts, and gelt as possible? If you have yet to indulge in your share of these delightful treats, not to worry. We’re here to help. Look no further for the best Hanukkah deals in DC. And no, it’s definitely not too late to dig into some sufganiyot!


Sufganiyot from Sugar Shack

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts is one of our FAVORITE places for delightful sugary treats, and this year they did not disappoint. They’re offering a special “Hanukkah Mini Box” featuring a dozen doughnuts inspired by the holiday, including Sufganiyot, creme brulee mini doughnuts topped with gelt, and Hanukkah cookie mini doughnuts. These delicious little rings of joy are available at all locations throughout Hanukkah (December 2-10).

B. Doughnut

Berry jam, cinnamon sugar, and a seasonal gingerbread flavor! They also have vegan berry glazed donut holes with granola. So yeah, there’s that.

Dino’s Grotto

Dino’s Grotto (similar but different to The Little Mermaid’s grotto) has an entire Hanukkah 2018 menu available a la carte or as a family style FEAST. Take your pick from latkes, specialty pasta, a choice of chicken or fish, and an olive oil citrus cake. Ooookay!

Chai-vy & Coheney

This is perhaps the most popular pop-up bar in Washington DC. Stop by this famous Shaw watering hole for shots out of a menorah, red and green dreidels, and lots and lots of Manischewitz. Not only is this pop-up bar super fun and innovative, but all proceeds from the ShotNorah (eight guests take shots in unison) are being donated to HIAS. How’s that for some warm and fuzzy holiday feels?

Commissary DC

Commissary’s menu is currently featuring vegetarian potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce! They also serve potato pancakes with eggs, smoked salmon, sour cream, and toast which sounds absolutely incredible. We have not tried this, but if anyone wants to go to brunch here with us this weekend, please comment below. 🙂

District Doughnut

They carry a special sufganiyot flavor (vanilla bean, sugar, and strawberry jam) for the season, along with a year-round Bailey’s & Coffee, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, and definitely not kosher Maple Bacon.

Fare Well

In addition to hosting celebs like Miley Cyrus, this vegan staple on H Street boasts egg-free potato latkes with homemade sour creme and apple sauce for the season.

Miracle on 7th St

This isn’t a traditional “restaurant,” we know, but obviously we had to include this yearly staple in our roundup of Hanukkah deals across DC. While the majority of this bar centers around Christmas, there is an amazing Hanukkah section filled with menorahs, a specialty drink called The Hebrew Hammer, and Chinese food boxes. Because a lot of Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas. Get it?

Sugar Shack Donuts

Voted one of the Top 10 Tastiest Donuts in America, Sugar Shack carries flavors like Candy Cane and carries a raspberry jam filled Sufganiyot flavor that I can tell you from personal experience is fully, moist, and finger-licking good.

Other places to indulge in your favorite festive delicacies:

Know of other places to try delicious latkes or donuts before Hanukkah comes to a close? Please comment below!



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site


Jewish DC Hanukkah Guide 2018

Uh oh. This Hanukkah guide is out of date! See our 2019 edition here.





That can only mean one thing.

It’s Hanukkah time y’all. So get ready to get lit (that pun is still clever, right?).

For those who have been counting down the days until this glorious Festival of Lights, or those who maybe totally forgot Hanukkah was happening early this year and are now debating whether re-gifting last year’s Blue Apron subscription would be socially acceptable (that’s definitely not me, okay!)…this handy-dandy Hanukkah Guide is for you!

Check out our roundup of the best Hanukkah parties, latke recipes, and menorah lightings across Jewish DC! Oh, and if we missed an awesome event – submit it here. And however you celebrate, we wish you a miraculously wonderful Hanukkah season.

NOTE: This list will be regularly updated, so please check back for new events and celebrations.

Pre-Hanukkah Events

Hanukkah Events

Sunday, December 2nd

Monday, December 3rd

Tuesday, December 4th

Wednesday, December 5th

Thursday, December 6th

Friday, December 7th

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th

Post-Hanukkah Holiday Events

Hanukkah Recipes & Blog Inspiration


The events listed above are not sponsored or hosted by GatherDC, unless otherwise specified. GatherDC does not assume any responsibility, liability, or financial obligation to to the events listed that are not explicitly hosted by GatherDC. 

Spotted in Jewish DC – The EmporiYUM: Meet. Eat. Shop.

This week in #SpottedInJewishDC we checked out The EmporiYUM, a pop-up marketplace with over 100 vendors selling their best food products ranging from snacks, drinks, and even boozy ice cream! We went around with an empty stomach and an open mind, getting a taste of all the offerings and scoping out the local Jewish foodies sharing their products at the event.

With Hanukkah around the corner, we did your homework for you (you’re welcome) and have some great gift ideas for your fellow foodies. Dig in to meet some of these DC food scene changemakers, one full belly at a time!

Even if you didn’t make it to The EmporiYUM this year, don’t fret, just follow my pro-Hanukkah gifting tips to support your local Jewish foodie favorites and get some good eats along the way. You’ll be in foodie heaven, while giving the gift of eating locally made products that support the buzzing startup community here in DC.


NOSH BARWith “just the good stuff” inside, Nosh Bars are full of ingredients you can identify without pulling out your phone and turning to Google: nuts, fruit, oats, seeds, and spices. That’s it!

Keeping it simple is just what Nosh Bar’s owner, Michele, intended when she created them in her own home kitchen. Tired of being confused in the grocery store with all the various “health bar” products out there, she turned to the basics of eating simple foods full of clean ingredients. Her bars come in a variety of flavors, with the best-selling figstachio and something for the more adventurous with the goji berry bar (if you haven’t tried these berries yet, grab one – they are full of antioxidants and perfect for the winter sniffles). This was Michele’s first year at The EmporiYUM and she had lines throughout the whole event!

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: You can get some Nosh Bar products for your favorites online, and at local stores like TasteLab Marketplace, Steadfast Supply, and Reformation Fitness.


PRESCRIPTION CHICKENThe EmporiYUM was held outside on a chilly November day, so warm soup was just what we needed to keep up the energy. Luckily, the soup-slinging duo Prescription Chicken was on-site serving up shots of their chicken soup alongside mini challah braids.

This soup delivery service sends chicken soup out to cure whatever ails you, like the classic winter sniffles, to the hangover package that includes a turmeric spiced soup with a side of vitamins, tea and saltines. Started after co-founder Valerie Zweig had a rough battle with laryngitis where all she wanted was some good matzo ball soup, an idea was born and she recruited her cousin, Taryn Pellicone, to launch the business.  With the notion that soup infers comfort, their soup can be for those who are sick or just having a bad day.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Deliver a package of Grandma’s Famous Chicken Noodle Soup to those needing some extra love.


BUFFALO & BERGEN: Located steps from The EmporiYUM’s pop-up marketplace, Buffalo & Bergen brings the joys of New York soda shops to Washington, DC, giving a new spin on old classics.  With soda flavors ranging from Coca-Cola to Lemon Lavender to Carrot Marigold, Gina Chersevani’s mixology expertise adds an extra splash to these longtime favorites (you can also add a little booze if you choose)!

In addition to the expansive drink menu, Buffalo & Bergen serves up classic Jewish bites like knishes and bagels! Sourcing their water straight from New York, these bagels will have even the biggest critic coming back for more.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Treat your friends to brunch or cocktails at Buffalo & Bergen…or simply bring some bagels to your next Hanukkah shindig when everyone’s had enough latkes (is that a thing?!).


SWAPPLES: Frozen waffles are a staple in any millennial’s freezer, offering a quick breakfast option for our busy lives. Swapples provide a healthy alternative to the often sugar-loaded frozen waffle; entirely plant-based, these allergen-free waffles are made with yuca root, a starchy, nutritious tuber vegetable.

When owner Rebecca Peress was told by a doctor to cut out all sugar from her diet, she quickly felt limited by the options in her grocery store. She started making Swapples for herself, and once her co-workers kept requesting them, an idea for a business was born.

Swapples currently come in four flavors: Blueberry, Cinnamon, Tomato Pizza, and Everything (this one’s especially for bagel lovers). You can find them in grocery stores like Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and Glen’s Garden Market.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Grab a bag and try out this healthy, vegan alternative to your favorite waffle! Maybe even swap a Swapple for this year’s latkes – who knows, you may find a new holiday tradition.





About the Author: Judith  Rontal  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! Judith hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

GTJ’s Satirist Brian F. – Jewish Holiday Parties That Were Discontinued

getting lit - kosher ham - funny jewish tshirt website.jpgWASHINGTON, DC – (@The Comedy News) – We have all been invited to our fair share of holiday parties- with our coworkers, with our friends, with our neighbor who hoards cats and trash in the front yard.

And for the 165,000 Jews in the DC metro area, there is no shortage of Jewish-themed winter gatherings.

Various Jewish organizations have facilitated dozens of successful parties for the DC Jewish community, some even running annually for over twenty years.  Just like good Jewish humor, the names of the parties have been alliterated and cheesy.

However, there are some Jewish winter holiday events that were discontinued over the years:

Challah Back Y’all Karaoke Kabbalah (2005-2006)
A short-lived karaoke tournament inspired by the Gwen Stefani song, Hollaback Girl.  A schmorgesborg of challah bread kept the bashful non-singers enthused.  Discontinued after too many renditions of Sweet Caroline, Don’t Stop Believing, and Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu.

Bagel Bash (2000-2008)
A $5 fee got revelers admission to a wild and crazy dance party at McFaddens in Foggy Bottom, as well as all-you-can-eat bagels and schmear. Discontinued after Michelle Obama smote excess carbohydrate ingestion.

Pork Protest (1993-1994)
A dance party primarily attended by reform Jews who advocated for a change in kashrut laws forbidding pork products.  Popular with American Jews from Midwestern states.  Discontinued after no one would admit to each other that they loved the taste of pork.

Shrimp Strike (1993-1994)
Same as pork protest.  Just more popular amongst New England seafood snobs.

Brisket Bris-off (1946-1964)
During the post World War II baby boom, DC Jews used to gather at RFK stadium on Christmas Eve for an outdoor mass-celebration of brit milah, or “bris”.  Local chefs provided complimentary brisket samplings to the new parents.  Discontinued for too many reasons to list.

Mistletoe Mitzvah (1989-1999)
Billed as “The Easiest Jewish Singles Event to Get To First Base!”  Basically, it was an awkward happy hour with mistletoe hanging from the tavern’s ceiling.  Interest faltered after everyone in the Jewish community had made out with each other.

Jew-Jitzu Jam (1984)
Popularized by the film, Karate Kid, the Jew-Jitzu jam was a martial arts-themed dance party that encouraged Jewish revelers to dress up in either Cobra Kai attire, or Miyagi-do Karate attire.  Discontinued after too many fights broke out on the dance floor.

None of the aforementioned parties are real.  Instead you should subscribe to GTJ’s events calendar for your holiday cheer.

GTJ’s Satirist Brian F. – Christmas Writes Cease-and-Desist Letter to Hanukkah

The following letter was leaked from a law firm in Brooklyn: 

18 One-Candle Drive
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Hanukkah,

It has come to my attention that my client [CHRISTMAS] contends that you [HANUKKAH] have infringed upon Christmas’ position as the preeminent gift-giving holiday during the cold weather months of November and/or December.  My client demands that you cease and desist your existence as a gift-giving holiday immediately.

I understand that you [HANUKKAH] are a “festival” and not a holiday.  However, you and my client [CHRISTMAS] are constantly grouped by the politically-correct masses into the same category.

In the scenarios listed below, the unauthorized likenesses of Hanukkah (H) to Christmas (C) are highlighted:

· Menorahs (H) vs. Christmas Trees (C). A free-standing symbol of holiday cheer consisting of lights and flames.

· Potato Pancakes(H) vs. Buttermilk Pancakes (C)  Honestly, did you really have to re-invent the pancake?

· Blue Tinsel (H) vs. Green/Red Tinsel (C).  Decorative tinsel is for Christmas.  You may not make it blue and call it ‘Hanukkah Tinsel’

· Dreidels (H) vs. Assorted Gambling (C).  Dreidels are a cheaper knock-off of dice- which are supposed to have six sides.  The only gambling allowed during the holiday season is reserved for College Bowl Games.

· Eight Nights (H) vs. Christmas Eve (C).  The nights of Hanukkah are artificially inflated, my client alleges, to overlap with Christmas every few years.  Unacceptable.

· Adam Sandler (H) vs. Bing Crosby (C).  Mr. Sandler’s “humorous” incarnations of the Hanukkah song are a rip on Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  And all he does is name celebrities that are Jewish.  That’s not a song, that’s a Wikipedia page.

You must cease and desist all attempts to emulate Christmas immediately.Should you not comply, Christmas will write another Cease and Desist letter each year until you come into compliance.You will be responsible for an eternity of attorney fees, plagiarism, royalties, individual and/or class-action law suits on behalf of Christmas.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Check Out the DC Hanukkah Events!

Celebrate the Festival of Lights with the DC Jewish Young Professionals!  This page will be updated regularly so check back.

First to get you in the mood:

Wednesday, December 5th

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th

Monday, December 10th

Tuesday, December 11th

Wednesday, December 12th

Thursday, December 13th

Friday, December 14th

Saturday, December 15th

Sunday, December 16th