Leon Wahba, the immediate past chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, acts much like a friendly grandfather. “[The Jewish Community Relations Council is] the eyes, ears, and face of the Jewish community,” said Wahba. Even though I had never met Wahba before, I felt welcomed to his “house,” which is what he calls the Jewish Community Center. He discussed the upcoming Jewish Community of Louisville Interfaith Chanukah Party, which he chairs, like it’s a family reunion and I’m part of the family.
At the first Interfaith Chanukah Party just four years ago, Wahba and the Jewish Community Relations Council reached out to church leaders whose congregations were located close to the Jewish Community Center.
“We had about 50 to 60 people come,” said Wahba about the first event.
Last year, the event attracted closer to 150 people, after the Jewish Community Relations Council enlisted help from Terry Taylor, executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, a Louisville-based nonprofit that works to promote positive interactions and understanding between people of differing religious groups. The two organizations worked together and reached out to leaders in the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim communities.
This year, Wahba is hoping for the biggest crowd yet. According to the Jewish Community of Louisville website, the Jewish Community Relations Council has sent invitations to over 700 various houses of worship. While no tickets are necessary, Wahba recommends calling early to reserve a ticket. Only 400 seats are available.
If you are curious about Chanukah traditions, food, and music, make reservations for your entire family. The Jewish Community Center auditorium will look much like the site of a wedding reception, outfitted with tables set with dreidels for children to play with and a traditional nine-branched Chanukah menorah. There will also be a variety of tasties, such as latkes (salty potato pancakes), applesauce, and sufganiyot (traditional Chanukah doughnuts). This is not a diet holiday, people! Oil is the main ingredient of Chanukah food because of its significance.
The Chanukah story celebrates the surprising victory by Judah Maccabee and his small Jewish army over the mighty Greeks; it also celebrates the surprising miracle after the battle, when a thimbleful of oil burned for eight long nights at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The event is a party and Jews party with food. I’m Jewish, so my waistline has witnessed its share of Chanukah parties.If the Interfaith Chanukah Party is anything like Chanukah parties at my house, the order of events will most likely be: 1. a couple of prayers over the candles, the wine, and the food (in this case led by Keneseth Israel’s Rabbi Michael Wolk); 2. singing and prayers usually combined (and, at this party, expertly led by cantors David Lipp and Sharon Hordes); and 3. dining on greasy food followed by TUMS (not provided by the Jewish Community of Louisville).
Wahba looks at the Interfaith Chanukah Party as a way for the Jewish community to wish “season’s greetings to all faiths in town.” It’s the Jewish Community of Louisville’s big shout out to the community to come join their party. Wahba thinks of it as an open house.
“Everyone is invited to tour the [Jewish Community Center] afterward,” said Wahba. “Everything will be open. Tour the house, have a latke, and enjoy some good music.”