By Janis Fontaine
Thanks in part to a Jewish Outreach grant from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, “Chanukah Under the Stars,” the signature event of Temple Beth El, returns to Mizner Park Amphitheater in downtown Boca Raton in December. The last time the event was held was in 2014, and more than 4,000 people came out to celebrate the Festival of Lights at a shabbat service that included extra music, food, games and festivities.
“We usually host it every other year, but we took some time off. It’s a huge effort for the staff to put on the event,” executive director Steve Kaufman said.
For the past few years, Temple Beth El has been busy renovating and remodeling its Schaefer campus, thanks to a $5 million grant it received in 2014. Since then, construction has been the ongoing focus, but on Dec. 7, the focus returns to the people. From 5 to 9 p.m. the local South Florida community — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — is invited to come together to celebrate one of Judaism’s most popular and lively holidays.
“We look at this as our gift to the community,” said Susan Stallone, director of marketing and communications for Temple Beth El. “It’s a beautiful musical celebration.”
A few upgrades have been added to make it even better. “For the first time, we’ll be broadcasting the service on a video screen so people can see better,” Kaufman said. “We’ll also have the text of the service on another screen to help people follow along. We wanted to enhance the experience, and this was one way to do that.”
“Chanukah Under the Stars” starts at 5 p.m. with activities in the children’s area, including bounce houses, face painting, crafts and storytelling. A special Chanukah Tot Shabbat and songfest will follow. From 5 to 7 p.m., visitors can sample the variety of traditional latkes and other food available. The Chanukah Shabbat service will begin at 7:30 p.m. led by Rabbi Daniel Levin, Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman, Rabbi Greg Weisman, cantor Lori Shapiro and cantorial soloist Michelle Auslander Cohen.
“This year we have three choirs performing,” Kaufman said. Temple Beth El’s adult chorale will perform, as will as Shir Ruach, its teen group, and Shir Joy, the youth choir for grades 3 through 6.
The celebration will take a moment to recognize the temple’s charity, The Giving Tree, which provides necessities such as new uniforms and school supplies to children whose parents cannot afford them. The Giving Tree also has a very active and generous holiday gift program that provides Christmas presents, yes, Christmas presents, to more than 100 families who live in the Dixie Manor Public Housing community in Boca Raton. The Giving Tree also provides the food for a full Christmas dinner.
“The Giving Tree is truly a light in the darkness, and the holiday is about being a light,” Stallone said. For more information, visit www.thegivingtreeboca.org.
Admission to “Chanukah Under the Stars” is free, with a variety of food and drink vendors available. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Leslie Viselman at 314-2836 or email@example.com. Volunteers are also needed. Call Rachael Rand at 391-9091.
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Chanukah Under the Stars
When: 5-9 p.m. Dec. 7
Where: Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Info: 391-8900 or