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SRO Chanukah (Standing Room Only!)

They came from all over last night to celebrate the first night of Chanukah at Or Ami. Even staying within the room’s limits, we kept setting up chairs and more chairs, and then moved back the bimah and put the table with the candles in front of the ark, and set up more chairs, and they still kept coming. With our Jewry Duty band playing Chanukah songs throughout, we told the story, sang songs, lit candles and celebrated. Special time set aside to change a light bulb to a CFL (low energy compact flourescent lightbulb) transformed the lighting of candles into an illumination of our responsibility to take care of our world. We also collected tzedakah to purchase bags and boxes of fresh produce so to ensure that our SOVA food pantries will have fresh produce weekly to feed their 1500 guests.

I admit being a bit overwhelmed. We set up chairs for 220 before the service. A quick count put the actual numbers at closer to 285 by services end (not including those just milling around in the foyer). What is it about Chanukah that has people turning out in such numbers? I think it is something attached to a desire to celebrate the holiday in a religious/historical context, rather than merely to light and give presents. Wonder what others think…

One comment

  1. Jay Ritt says:

    This was our first significant foray into a holiday service at the Or Ami sanctuary since we became members this fall (we went to the family Yom Kippur service at the Calabasas Community Center — which was about as much fun as a service designed to remind me of my numerous failings could be), and we brought our notoriously finnicky nine year-old Ella. There were a couple of things we noticed right off the bat. The place was PACKED. We weren’t alone in being first timers there. We saw some friends from the Mishpacha program and compared notes. We quickly discerned that we had overwhelmed the place in a way that hadn’t been anticipated. So that could have been a recipe for disaster (or at least heated claustrophobia), but it wasn’t. Everything seemed to go real smoothly, and the Rabbi, the Cantor, everyone seemed to take the masses in stride. I thought the service was tight, the music was great (especially once complete song sheets were distributed), the stories Rabbi Kipnes told resonated with Ella and those older than nine, and the lightings of the menorahs happened safely and without any fistfights breaking out or sleeves going up in flames. All in all, Mara, Ella and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we appreciated the way you were able to juggle the onslaught and we look forward to coming back for another service (which is, to say the least, not normal for us liberal, anti-establishment types).

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