Members of several synagogues in the Baltimore area spent time this past week at Lorien Harmony Hall, an assisted-living facility in Columbia, to light the Chanukah candles each night for the duration of the eight-day holiday. Beth Shalom Congregation, Columbia Jewish Congregation, Temple Isaiah and Chabad Lubavitch Center for Jewish Life Howard County have all been participating in lighting the candles on the center’s menorah and bringing a little seasonal cheer to its residents.
Congregants and staff from Beth Shalom lit the Chanukah menorah last year at Harmony Hall. This year, area synagogues caught wind of the idea and joined in the volunteering.
Stephanie Gurwitz Zurier, a congregant from Columbia Jewish Congregation, asked to participate because her mother had moved into Harmony Hall earlier in the year. The candle-lighting was then opened up to other synagogues; Chabad of Howard County, for example, got involved because its rabbi, Hillel Baron, performs services there once a month.
“It was a grassroots effort,” said Abby Glassberg, chair of Beth Shalom’s social-action committee. “It’s just so nice that different congregations in the Howard County area are helping residents to have a joyous Chanukah.”
Glassberg helped organize the event, and in addition to lighting the menorah, residents were treated to different foods and traditions each night of the holiday. One night, they enjoyed freshly cooked latkes and traditional jelly donuts (sufganiyot); on another, they heard musical performances of Chanukah songs, including instruments like the guitar, the bass and the piano.
The Jewish Federation of Howard County also took part in these Chanukah activities, providing and distributing gifts to residents.
“A lot of people came to the event at Harmony Hall because they have family there,” noted Glassberg. “It’s nice to bring the community together on Chanukah.”
‘Fellowship of other residents’
Residents of Harmony Hall, both Jewish and otherwise, made it a point to say that they enjoyed the candle-lighting and being able to spend time with friends and families during the holidays.
“I wanted to enjoy connecting to my Jewish heritage, to the culture I grew up with,” said Harmony Hall resident Jerry Lipsch, 76. A former member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville, Lipsch moved back to Maryland from Chicago to be closer to his family.
“I enjoy the fellowship of other residents that are either Jewish or just want to celebrate Chanukah,” he added. “There’s all kinds of Christmas decorations around here, but it’s nice to have something about our holiday, too.”
“The event is a wonderful thing, and I think the residents are happy to have us here. It’s really quite joyous,” said Glassberg. “A bunch of people who aren’t Jewish have been coming because they’ve been having such a nice time.”