This year, Bethlehem Chabad will put a new take on the Festival of Lights with a Glow in the Dark Hanukkah Extravaganza.
Since 2008, the group has hosted one of the largest Hanukkah events in the Capital District by gathering to light the giant Menorah at Bethlehem’s Four Corners. The celebration eventually grew to include more activities for children, such as Hanaukkah Wonderland held at Town Hall.
Rabbi Zalman Simon said the activities at this year’s event will better reflect the true meaning of Hanaukkah.
“Every year, we hold our annual Hanaukkah celebration, and the message is to spread light,” said Simon, who organized the ceremony and event with his wife, Chana. “So this year, we have added some elements to tie in with that theme.”
The day will start at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Dec. 21, with the official lighting of the menorah at the Bethlehem Four Corners. This will be followed by a parade held for the first time since the event began.
Families who wish to participate in the parade are asked to register with Bethlehem Chabad either by phone or through the website. No one will be marching in this parade. Instead, participants are asked to decorate their cars as imaginatively as possible. Working in conjunction with the town police, the parade will proceed down Delaware Avenue to Normanside Country Club, where the Glow in the Dark Extravaganza will take place.
“We want the community to be aware of the message of Hanaukkah, which is that a little bit of light can dispel much darkness,” said Simon, adding that anyone who would like to learn more about the holiday and have a day of fun is welcome to attend.
At Normanside, a host of activities will be set up for the whole family to enjoy. The theme is glow in the dark, so those who attend will find glow-in-the-dark dreidels, crafts like snow globe making, face painting and more.
One of the main attractions will be a latka-making competition similar to the television show “Top Chef.” Three groups of contestants will be making their own secret latka recipes, with Chef Art Wise of Shoprite acting as MC. Local chefs and restaurateurs will then judge the dishes, and a winner will be announced.
In addition, Wise will do some latka-making demonstrations and will have some different variations available for sampling. There will also be a hot latka bar with all of the toppings and a doughnut bar.
Raffle tickets are being sold for $5 on Bethlehem Chabad’s website and at the door. Some of the prizes include golf for a party of four at the Normanside Country Club, five sessions of personal training at Top Form and gift certificates to Terra, a new kosher restaurant in Albany.
Rob Kasper, who moved to Bethlehem in 1999, said he’s thankful Bethlehem Chabad has worked hard to hold more activities in town.
“For a long time, to be Jewish in Bethlehem meant you had to go to Albany,” Kasper said. “That’s not always the case anymore. There are plenty of churches, and there is a nice integration of the different religions, but Judaism was under represented.”
Kasper said he has three children who very much enjoy the newer Hanaukkah celebrations held in town.
“It’s very hard to be Jewish and not appreciate Christmas trees and Christmas-time in general,” Kasper explained. “Everything is very beautiful and you want a piece of that, but Chabad does a good job of teaching (the kids) about their identity and making sure they are included in the festivities of the season.”