SCV begins virtual Festival of Lights celebrations

Rabbi Mark Blazer, with Temple Beth Ami; Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth; Rabbi Choni Marozov, with Chabad of Santa Clarita Valley; and Rabbi Jay Siegel, from Congregation Beth Shalom sing in celebration marking the beginning of Hanukkah at the Westfield Valencia Town Center for the Chanukah family festival, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Gilbert Bernal\The Signal

With Hanukkah beginning at sundown Thursday amid a global health crisis, Santa Clarita Valley’s temples sought to bring together their communities the safest way possible — virtually, with several online gatherings. 

Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, for example, is hosting an online candle-lighting ceremony each night of Hanukkah starting at 6 p.m. (See breakout box for link.)

“Our daily lives have been turned upside down. Almost every activity we engage in has been affected, and nearly all of us know someone who’s been affected by COVID-19,” he wrote in a piece published in The Signal last week. “In the midst of so much darkness, it is much more difficult to find the light, yet that is exactly what we are supposed to do as we celebrate this holiday season.”

The temple’s bingo, latke and vodka party Saturday is meant to raise the holiday spirit with fun and games, starting at  7 p.m. (See box for information.)

He’s also welcoming the community into his home virtually, with a Hanukkah cooking class. The class takes place Monday, broadcasting “live from the Blazer family kitchen” and promising a variety of latkes. 

It’s in place of a traditional temple gathering to teach how to make latkes, a traditional potato pancake dish tied to the holiday’s tradition.

Congregation Beth Shalom offers service information on its website,, but no events have been announced for the immediate future due to potential health risks.

Rabbi Choni Marozov of Chabad of SCV said his temple is offering to help anyone who might be in need of candles or any other help to celebrate the holiday virtually this year. Anyone in need of assistance with supplies can contact the temple at 661-254-3434.

Second box below if space allows

In addition to lighting a menorah, here are a few other safe, fun virtual celebrations:

Invite friends to Zoom parties

Aside from Shabbat, the rest of Hanukkah we are free to enjoy the gift of wireless technology. So be sure to schedule some virtual Zoom celebrations with loved ones and friends. Book your calendar in advance, and see if you can spread out the joy over the course of the eight-day holiday.

Pro tip No. 1: Add a tangible element to your shared celebration by having some Hanukkah goodies delivered to your “guests.”

Pro tip No. 2: If everyone has a dreidel at home, you can play a long-distance game, with someone keeping tally on a whiteboard.

Pro tip No. 3: Read from “Eight Lights for Eight Nights” aloud, to add some inspiration to the socialization.

Join (or organize) a car-top menorah parade

Since you can do this from the safety of your closed car, it’s the ultimate socially distanced Jewish ritual. Call your local temple to see if there’s a parade planned. If there isn’t one, make sure you have one suitable for outdoor use, create an online event for people to sign up and start your own.

Fry up some delicious latkes

Latkes are a reminder of the miracle of Hanukkah, in which a small quantity of oil, enough for just 24 hours, lasted for a full eight days. Not used to cooking in small quantities? No problem. Make extra, pack up the surplus, and drop off your greasy goodies on the doorsteps of fellow quarantiners.


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