If Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, a beacon of warmth in the midst of a cold New England winter, then what the heck was I doing shivering in front of Temple Beth Elohim on a cold, rainy Sunday morning, celebrating this joyous holiday?
That December day the driveway in front of the temple had been transformed into the starting line (and later, the finish line) of TBE’s first annual Dreidel Dash 5K. The race number pinned to the front of my running jacket represented my contribution to TBE’s Youth Engagement Fund. Kids from our congregation who needed financial support would now have access to scholarships to participate in Jewish teen events at TBE and beyond, like Havayah programs and overnight camp. The $4500 the event raised through sponsorships, race registrations, apparel sales, and donations, would make this possible. With that, the warmth began to spread.
How could it not? The brainchild of Havayah youth staff leader Hannah Richman Kearney, the TBE community Chanukah celebration was created out of love of community and love of our temple youth. The celebration included elements that appealed to all congregants, runners and non-runners, youngsters and non-youngsters.
The morning kicked off with TBE’s littlests (Yaldeinu) racing around the parking lot, including Rabbi Sherman hustling along with his children. Next, the big kids of Limud ran their custom course, chasing a dreidel-costumed Rabbi Saphire. Music DJed by our own Havayah teen members set the atmosphere outside, while Havayah Senior Leadership Team member Jonah Michel, donned in running shorts and a blue tutu, encouraged the crowd of runners inside to stretch and get ready to run. Volunteers of all ages (even Naomi Brown in a walking boot!) registered the last-minute die-hards that showed up to be a part of the only Chanukah race in a region full of Jingle Bell runs.
The Dreidel Dash 5K was a testament to our community as the race wound its way through the streets surrounding TBE. The warmth I felt running rivaled what we all feel while in the sanctuary during services. Neighbors cheered us on from their front steps. New and familiar faces filled the pack of runners. In the crowd was my husband Larry Michel and our 13-year old son Spike. Marking the first mile was Karen Wolfson, who I knew from working on the education committee. The noise at the halfway point was deafening as cheers from the Havayah Teen Water Station encouraged me to keep going. Directing runners around the final turn was Heather Levinson and her daughters, whom I met through a mutual friend from our Chavayah group when we first joined the temple. Dreidel Dash committee member David Levinson bobbed up ahead, sporting a full body Dreidel costume. (David always lands on gimel.)
Approaching TBE, the Jerusalem stone is always a welcome sight, but soaking wet and surrounded by my fellow congregants, this particular homestretch felt pretty special. I sprinted for the finish line. Post-race, the community came together in the Community Gathering space to celebrate Chanukah and acknowledge what the Maccabees and our congregation accomplished. We lit the Chanukkiah, feasted on latkes and sufganiot, had our pictures taken in the Northern Lights photo booth, and wandered around to see the vendors and their offerings, from information on summer camp to jewelry created in developing countries that made great Chanukah gifts.
Prizes were also awarded to top finishers in their age groups. Sadly, I placed third in my age group. Why sadly? Not because I coveted first place, but because there were only 3 women in the group! This year please join me and last year’s 225 other runners to fill all the age brackets and participate in the Dreidel Dash events. All are welcome, from newborns to centenarians. Help us support two important causes – the TBE Youth Engagement Fund and the TBE community.