The JCDC embraces the holidays with a virtual Hanukkah celebration

The holidays are coming soon; Hanukkah is right around the corner and because of COVID-19, visit- ing friends and family to celebrate is sadly not an option. Don’t worry though, because the Jewish Culture and Development Club has the solution to the quarantined-holiday blues. The club is hosting an all-virtual, all-inclusive, all-fun Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 17.

The Jewish Culture and Development Club was founded in 2019 by senior co-presidents Aidan Ber- man and Cooper Harris. WHS Social Studies teacher- er Kimberly Leegan serves as the club’s adviser. The students were inspired to start the club after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 and the re- cent acts of antisemitism in Westfield and neighboring communities.

In addition, Berman and Harris wanted to create a safe space where Jewish students and non-Jewish students could discuss problems, learn about Judaism and gain a sense of unity.

“Prior to COVID-19, club meetings were every two weeks,” said Leegan. “[Berman and Harris] would come up with different activities, sometimes teaching us an aspect of Jewish culture or playing little games.” Leegan also said that when meetings were held in person they would provide traditional Jewish dishes like challah bread.

The club refused to let the pandemic affect their progress and has continued to meet with a focus on fun games and new learning opportunities.

Senior member of the JCDC Dylan Berger joined the club because he understands the importance of spreading knowledge about Judaism. Berger said, “I like the club because it’s a platform for the school community to learn about the Jewish religion. As someone who is Jewish, I think it’s important to teach others about our culture so that we can all co-exist and respect each other’s beliefs.”

Hanukkah started on Dec. 10, and the JCDC is excited to celebrate the joyous holiday. On the seventh night of Hanukkah from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m, there will be a live Webex celebration that all WHS students are welcome to attend.

Beyond ringing in the holiday with a celebration, the club is hoping to use the event to promote Jewish pride in the community and help its members get through these difficult times. Berman said, “We thought by providing everyone with a fun and interesting night of activities, they would temporarily forget what is going on in the outside world and have a good time with others.”

The Hanukkah celebration won’t be like other JCDC meetings; the club expects more attendees than normal. Berman said the reason they wanted to have a larger meeting “was to expand the club so everyone can get a taste of it.”

While there will still be games and a chance to learn about Hanukkah, there will also be a guest speaker, Rabbi Prosnit from Temple Emanu-El in Westfield. He will join the meeting to talk about Hanukkah, answer any questions participants may have and enjoy the festivities with the community.

The holiday season is for celebrating and spending time with others. It’s comforting to know that even though we will be staying home for the holi- days, we will still be able to enjoy the evening with friends at the Jewish Culture and Development club’s virtual Hanukkah celebration.