As politicians debated the merits of intelligent design and the war in Iraq earlier this month, kids like Ethan Silver of Blue Bell were more interested in a serious conundrum of their own: Which is tastier, latkes at Chanukah or hamantashen at Purim?
The result appeared to be a tie, as Silver and fellow members of the youth choir at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell sang "The Hamantashen/ Latke Debate," one of several songs they performed at the Plymouth Meeting Mall on Dec. 19. The festivities were part of "Chanukah at the Mall," a series of free holiday celebrations organized and funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Jewish Life and Learning, in conjunction with local synagogues and suburban Chabad Lubavitch centers in some locations.
"I got to sing [in public] for the first time since I joined the choir," said Silver, 8, who chowed down on latkes and made a sand-art menorah after the performance had ended. "I thought the whole thing was fun."
Held at six malls throughout suburban Philadelphia, "Chanukah at the Mall" is part of the center's outreach initiative to bring Judaism to public spaces. These holiday celebrations often represent a "gateway" for people who may not be otherwise involved in Jewish life.
"In a world where we live so spread out, you have to go where people are – in public spaces," said Adam Kessler, director of the center. " 'Chanukah at the Mall' is one of many ways to let people know we have active, vibrant Jewish communities in their neighborhoods."
In addition to Plymouth Meeting, "Chanukah at the Mall" events were held at the Oxford Valley Mall, Montgomery Mall, Granite Run Mall, King of Prussia Mall and Exton Square Mall. Each venue featured entertainment, candle-lighting ceremonies, crafts, goodie bags, latkes and information from local synagogues.
"Chanukah at the Mall" was one of several approaches Federation and its suburban regions took to connecting people to Judaism during the holiday season. Other Chanukah programs, many of which were co-sponsored by Federation Early Learning Services, were held at bookstores, libraries, play gyms and senior care facilities throughout the region.
More info? Call Rabbi Bonnie Goldberg at 215-832-0665.