Trevor Geiger, marketing director for the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, spins an oversized dreidel on Friday. The four-sided spinning tops are a traditional part of Hanukkah, which runs from sundown Sunday through sundown Monday, Dec. 26. This dreidel, which was made last year from cardboard and tape by Jewish Community Alliance programming director Deena Schoenfeld, will be used in several of the alliance’s upcoming events. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

After two years of navigating safe ways to celebrate Hanukkah during a global public health crisis, Maine’s Jewish community is eager to come together and enjoy Hanukkah in person.

Hanukkah is an eight-day festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem. It’s celebrated with games, food, gatherings and the lighting of the menorah.

The Jewish community in and around Portland normally recognizes the event with several Hanukkah parties. But in 2020, large gatherings were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. A year later, various Jewish leaders said it was still hard to gather anywhere that wasn’t outdoors or online because coronavirus vaccines weren’t available for children, and the omicron variant was taking off.

Trevor Geiger, marketing director for the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, recalled the sad moment when the JCA realized it had to cancel its party last year. The group had ordered a large, soccer ball sized dreidel for the event.

Geiger said he was excited to bring out the dreidel for this year’s celebration.

“It’s so great to get our kids back together, and to see families again,” Geiger said Friday. “Those first pandemic years were really tough. It’s really been so special and great for the kids to be able to get back together again.”


The JCA is promoting several Hanukkah events throughout Maine, both in-person and online. This includes several menorah-lighting events Sunday afternoon, when Hanukkah officially begins at sundown.

There will be a parade outside Portland City Hall at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and a Grand Menorah lighting around 4:15 p.m. There also will be Hanukkah parties Sunday evening at Temple Shalom in Auburn, Beth Israel Congregation in Bath and Congregation Etz Chaim in Biddeford, the latter of which also is offering a virtual event from 6-8 p.m.

At the Children’s Museum of Maine, the PJ Library, which is run by the JCA to provide free Jewish-themed books to children, will host a menorah-making craft event.

“This is really the first year since COVID that most of the events have been happening in person again, and that feels really good,” Geiger said.

Kate Shalvoy, executive director of Temple Beth El in Portland, is looking forward to having multiple generations together again.

“It’s not something that we can take for granted anymore,” Shalvoy said. “I think it’s something that we can all enjoy and appreciate that much more.”

Shalvoy believes Temple Beth El’s Hanukkah party is its biggest event of the year, with 300 to 400 people gathering for live music, food and togetherness.

“It’s a nice opportunity for people who are Jewish or Jewish adjacent to feel like they are especially welcome, and that they can really turn up and feel connected to the Jewish community,” Shalvoy said.

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