Photos by Andrea Scrivanich and Rebecca Howard
Every Chanukah, Friendship Circle of Brooklyn hosts a large Chanukah party and concert, exclusively for Friendship Circle of Brooklyn families. A frequently asked question this year is definitely “How is FCBKLN going to pull off their Chanukah event this year?”
The FC team sits down to brainstorm and begin with ideas for a venue. The party needs to be outdoors, for sure. The event is usually hosted inside Beis Rivkah’s main auditorium, but this year, FC decides on using Beis Rivkah’s parking lot space.
With some lights and décor, they can turn the everyday parking lot into a magical event space. Dress up the food tables with some beautiful table settings and hand painted signs by Rosie Benabou. Order large inflatable welcome arches and pillars. Set the mood with gorgeous lighting and hire a Klezmer band to stroll around playing Chanukah songs. Invite some entertainers to do a fire show, trick roping, and juggling, to wow the crowd! For the featured performance of the evening, enlist 8th Day to create a customized virtual concert!
Food… it’s not Chanukah without it! FC added something new to their Chanukah party menu to keep everyone warm – a hot apple cider bar with a wide array of toppings and additions to choose from! Orders are placed for over 550 latkes and donuts each, tons of cases of water bottles and seltzer cans, hundreds of paper goods, and gallons of apple cider. More orders go out for hundreds of fun light-up headbands, glasses, and necklaces; over 700 custom FC neck gaiters and 250 crisp dollar bills for Chanukah gelt.
Most important of all, the Toy Drive (in honor of Yissi Spiegel) must be organized! Set up the Amazon wish list and take into account each child’s interests and hobbies. Organize the hundreds of new toys that come rushing in and arrange by category, type, and age. Personally and carefully package and label each gift by name. Add a beautiful “Chanukah with the Rebbe” book from AlefBook.org into each bag.
Unfortunately, not everyone would be able to attend the party in person. To make sure that not a single family is left out, FC decides to set up a live YouTube premiere of the special 8th Day show. Even if families are celebrating Chanukah at home, they can sing and dance along with the rest of the Friendship Circle family.
T-8 hours to start. Rent a U-Haul van to bring all the materials, toys, décor, food, and more to the event space. The FC staff work hard to pack up the van, and it’s off!
T-1 hour to start. Arches are up, tables are set, piled with goodies. Cider is heating up in giant urns, latkes are in their warming pans and donuts are getting arranged beautifully. Stage is set up with giant pillars flanking the sides, the Menorah stands proudly in the spotlight. The Zikron Digital team is manning the sound and lighting system, making sure everything is good to go.
T-10 minutes. The performers are here. The photographers are here. Rochel Karp gathers the volunteers to give them a few last-minute pointers. The large screen behind the stage shows a montage of smiling faces participating in previous FC events. Registration tables are set and ready – waiting for the start.
6:00 PM – Go time! The gates open and everyone comes pouring in! Registered? Check. Through the arches, snap a family photo, pick up your goodies. Grab some food and find your friends. Enjoy the cozy music coming from the strolling Shpilkes band (tuba, clarinet, banjo, and accordion). Watch a mind-blowing performance from a fantastic fire juggler or trick roper.
As everyone files into the event space and finds their friends and their seats, Rabbi Berel Majesky, Director of FCBKLN, calls up Yehuda Reichman and Boruch Schneur Chein to light the Menorah. Everyone sings Haneiros Halalu along with a video of the Rebbe. The crowd goes wild when 8th Day pops onto the screen! Everyone sings along to their Chanukah medley, and jumps up and down to the beat of “Miracle of Light.” The smiles on everyone’s faces say it all. Some children take their dancing to the stage to show off their moves to “Can’t Wait to Celebrate” and “Inner Flame.”
As the evening ends, families make their way to tables filled with white paper bags filled with toys and gifts. Every single toy has been purchased from FC’s Toy Drive.
Each family walks back through the arches on their way out, where every child receives a crisp dollar bill for Chanukah gelt. Everyone leaves with a feeling of warmth that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
Friendship Circle of Brooklyn extends special thanks to: Rochel Karp, Ruta Cohen, Tzvi Gewirtz, Rosie Gurkov, Rosie Benabou, Lulu Feldman, Rabbi Sholom Goldstein and Mrs. Esther Edelman of Beis Rivkah, Benz’s, Chanie Greenbaum, Sossie Lazarus, Bassie Chaskind, Rochel Swued, Devorah Leah Lipchik, Altie Spielman, Moussia Wilhelm, Chaya Deitsch, and all the FC presidents and volunteers!