by Aimee Levitt
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah (or Chanukah, if you can manage that guttural "ch") starts Saturday night at sundown. A few weeks ago, Jimmy Kimmel ran a segment on his show called "Hipster or Hasidic" in which the audience had to determine whether a series of beards belonged to Brooklynites of the hipster or Hasidic persuasion.
You may think these two facts are unrelated, but they are not. Saturday night, St. Louisans will have their own chance to be hipster or Hasidic at two separate community Hanukkah parties. Take this brief quiz to see if you can determine which party is which.
Category 1: Name
A. Hanukkah Hullabaloo B. Chanukah in the Loop
Category 2: Location, time and cost of admission
Category 3: Organizer
A. Washington University Chabad, the Loop Business District and Market in the Loop B. The Brothers Lazaroff
Category 4: Menorah-Lighting
A. A menorah will be present, borrowed from the STL Style House. B. Yes, on a nine-foot tall steel menorah, lit by oil and a wick. Rabbi Hershey Novack will do the honors; he was practicing with his torch as he spoke to Daily RFT.
Category 5: Entertainment
A. A band comprised of students from Wash. U. and a number of special guests, identities still a mystery. Except that none will be Hanukkah Harry. B. Musical performances by the Brothers Lazaroff with Goodman, Will Soll's Klezmer Conspiracy and The Vaad, plus comedy from Thelonius Kryptonite and Kelsey McClure
Category 6: Dreidel?
A. There will be a motorized spinning dreidel disco ball hanging from the ceiling B. Small, plastic dreidels will handed out to guests, and there may be Dreidel Madness, a dreidel tournament, later in the week.
Category 7 (the most important): Will latkes (potato pancakes) be served?
A. Yes, fried by DJ Goldie and her sister-in-law as she spins "Chosen hits" B. Novack [in small, sheepish voice]: ....nooooo..... [sadly, regretfully] "It's very hard to provide latkes if they're not fresh. We could provide hard, cold latkes, but we wouldn't make any friends on the deal."
Answers after the jump.
Category 1: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 2: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 3: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 4: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 5: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 6: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 7: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic
This is the first year of Chanukah in the Loop. "One of the central themes of Chanukah is that it should be celebrated in a public manner," notes Novack of Wash. U. Chabad. "Where is more appropriate than the Loop?"
Especially this year, since, thanks to the vagaries of the lunar Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is earlier than usual and Novack's primary constituency, the Wash. U. student population, is still around. "It's a way to connect to Judaism," says Novack. "It's relevant and accessible. It fits all our goals."
This year is the second Hanukkah Hullabaloo. "It's not tied to any organized forms of practicing," says David Lazaroff, who, along with his brother and bandmate Jeff, organized the party. "We're all over the board."
Last year's Hanukkah Hullabaloo was inspired in part by Kinky Friedman, whose Hanukkah Tour played Off Broadway, and by the band Yo La Tengo, which throws a hipster Hanukkah party in New Jersey every year. The Brothers Lazaroff got their wives (call them the Sisters-in-Law Lazaroff) to fry latkes and invited some of their friends to perform, including the band Vaad, comprised of Ben Kaplan and several other St. Louis musicians, and Rabbi James Stone Goodman of the Neve Shalom synagogue, who read a series of poems called "Eight Nights" (one poem for each night of Hanukkah) while the musicians backed him up with what Lazaroff calls "deconstructed klezmer music."
The music went so well with Goodman's poems that the Brothers Lazaroff decided it should be recorded. The following week they went into the studio and started selling the result on the website bandcamp.com. Within two weeks, they'd made $6,500, all of which they donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.
And thus a tradition was born. This year's celebration will be similar, but bigger. Another set of brothers, Jeff and Randy Vines of STL Style House, contributed the menorah, the spinning dreidel disco ball and souvenir t-shirts bearing the slogan "You can't spell 'latkes' without STL." (Very true.) And all the proceeds will go to Goodman's One Life Whole World Project, which provides services for prisoners and people with addictions and mental illnesses.
But this is not to say you have to make a definite choice about whether to go Hasidic or hipster this Hanukkah. The timing is such that you could very easily make it to both parties. David Lazaroff says that Rabbi Chaim Landa of St. Louis Chabad has already RSVP'd to the Hanukkah Hullabaloo. So there.