J-Reach Bringing Hanukkah to Wildlights

J-Reach Bringing Hanukkah to Wildlights and Holiday Gifts to Central Ohio Families in Need

Every December, young Jewish families across central Ohio struggle to find holiday events that embrace Hanukkah and engage their children with fun and merriment. Providing meaningful programming and exciting activities focused around Jewish themes, education and culture is just what Becca Nitzberg, director of the JCC’s outreach program, J-Reach, specializes in: low-barrier access to events that are Jewish in nature and decentralized so that families across the city, from Dublin to New Albany, are able to find a Jewish message that speaks to them. This year is no different, with two major holiday events being offered, one an annual tradition and the other brand new this year.

New for 2014, Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will feature a Hanukkah night on Thursday, December 18. For the third night of the Festival of Lights, from 5-8 pm, J-Reach will bring the Hanukkah festivities to the annual holiday lights spectacular that includes thousands of dazzling lights strung throughout the zoo’s many animal exhibits.

Families at the Hands On Hanukkah event, which features a 6:30 pm Menorah Candle Lighting, can meet Debbie the Dreidel, taste yummy Hanukkah treats like jelly donuts, enjoy musical performances, and take part in holiday contests, like dreidel (top) spinning, a scavenger hunt, raffle, and more. The family-friendly Festival of Lights celebration amidst the Wildlights will take place in the warmth of the Asia Quest building. Those who RSVP to Nitzberg at bnitzberg@columbusjcc.org may obtain a discount code worth up to $4.99 off the cost of zoo admission. This true, community-wide effort is bringing together groups from BBYO, Chabad, area synagogues, and more.

Nitzberg hopes the Hands On Hanukkah event at Wildlights, too, will become a holiday tradition for Jewish families looking for an illuminated holiday experience. “Our goal is to provide enriching programming, whether for interfaith families, the LGBT community, empty-nesters, or young singles looking for a way to meet other Jews.” Accomplishing this also is Tikkun Olamukkah, a holiday tradition now in its 4th year at host site Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington. This began as a way to incorporate social action and giving back (or, as it’s known in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world) into the holiday season so focused around giving gifts, Nitzberg explained.

The December 14 event taking place from 5-7 pm features a gift donation drive and wrapping, and each family that attends is asked to bring a new, unwrapped gift for donating to the Jewish Family Services Holiday Gift Drive. The family-friendly celebration will include PJ Library Hanukkah stories, making and playing with dreidels (spinning tops), eating latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), and more. “Let’s all do a Mitzvah this holiday season,” said Nitzberg. For more information on this and other J-Reach events, contact Becca Nitzberg at bnitzberg@columbusjcc.org.