Look, don’t take our word for it. Trust an Ohio Rabbi: Hanukkah has some legitimate LGBTQ+ themes.
And those themes will be celebrated at Let’s All ‘Gelt’ Together, a crossover Hanukkah celebration between the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and Suburban Temple-Kol Ami.
To get the scoop on the festivities, The Buckeye Flame spun dreidels with Rabbi Allison B. Vann, who has been the spiritual leader of Suburban Temple-Kol Ami since 2011.
Just how gay is Hanukkah?
<laughs> I love it. Look: Hanukkah has flames. It’s flaming, and the flames increase every night.
See? I knew it. For those who don’t know the story, what are the big themes of Hanukkah that would appeal to an LGBTQ+ audience?
Oh my gosh, I love that question. Hanukkah is the story of fighting for freedom. In ancient times, Hanukkah was the story of religious freedom, being able to practice Judaism, which was not the majority religion. Today, I would translate Hanukkah into the ability to be one’s authentic self.
Talk about the importance of people getting together for Hanukkah.
First, we didn’t really get Hanukkah last year because of COVID, so just the ability to be together, to be in community, is very Jewish. That’s really important. We like to be together, we like to eat, we like to celebrate. Community is necessary. And community is part of the Jewish world. So that’s really about who we are.
One of the things that we do during Hannukkah is we take the menorah as it is lit and put it in the window. You could joke that we started decorations before there were decorations for whatever holiday. We pirsem: publicize the miracle by putting the lights into our windows so that everyone can see. Being together to publicize that miracle is really a joy. And what better way to celebrate the miracle than to celebrate together?
Tell everyone how “Let’s All ‘Gelt’ Together” came together.
Our membership committee is called “Open Doors” because we believe the doors to our congregation should be open to all. Our Open Doors committee has an LGBTQ+ subcommittee and they wanted to really spread our doors even more widely open. So they conceived of a Hanukkah party not in our synagogue because that, for many, is a closed door. For those who have not had great experiences, or for those who have stepped away from Jewish life for a long time, synagogues may not be the right starting place if you are reconnecting with your Judaism.
The LGBT center is a forward-looking facility, serving the queer community, and an awesome part of the city of Cleveland. With this event, we want to “open doors”— it’s not just the doors to our synagogue building that are open—it’s the doors to our community and a faith journey.
What can people expect at the event?
You will meet members of our congregation to learn more about Suburban Temple-Kol Ami. You will learn more about Hanukkah. We will light the menorah. We will nosh a little bit on some snacks.
We will also celebrate Havdalah, a very brief ceremony separating Shabbat, the Sabbath, from the rest of the week. It’s a beautiful singing celebration. Very sweet and very brief to connect us and teach us a little bit more about how we can bring holiness into our lives.
And to be clear: you don’t have to be Jewish to attend.
Everybody is welcome. Come learn. Come hang out with us.
Finally, it would not surprise you that so many of our readers have not had a positive experience with their faith. How can we support people on that journey to healing?
I work in a congregation that is affirming in so many, many ways. And we start with a guiding value that we find in Genesis which is that we are all created in God’s image. B’tzelem Elohim.
We start with that journey of just knowing that who we are is holy. Period. So many of our journeys come with a lot of pain and a lot of hurt and we have to talk it through, accept who we are, where we are, and be willing to take that next step. 🔥
- Let’s All ‘Gelt’ Together will be held on Saturday, December 17 from 5:30-7pm at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. All are welcome for this casual get together and celebration. No charge. More information on their Facebook event page.