‘Illumination Celebration: Firelight’ to kick off Chanukah


A live performance at the 2021 “Illumination Celebration.” (Courtesy)The JCC of Greater Baltimore will be celebrating Chanukah — the eight-day “Festival of Lights” — with a display of brilliance. “Illumination Celebration: Firelight,” the second annual JCC “Illumination Celebration,” will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18, to kick off the holiday, complete with a special live performance. (Chanukah starts this year on the evening of Dec. 18 and continues through the evening of Dec. 26.)

Taking place outside the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, the free event will start with a Chanukah candle-lighting before transitioning to a stunt and light show featuring performers courtesy of the 7textures entertainment agency. This year’s celebration will feature an additional artist — a cappella group HaZamir: The International Jewish Teen Choir — to open the event and provide music.

The light-focused event first premiered last year, inspired by a post-COVID-19 desire to bring the community together publicly and celebrate the holiday. “It was born out of a time and need to have a safe gathering,” said Melissa Seltzer, the JCC’s senior director of arts and culture. “It’s an outdoor event, so people were able to socially distance. And it resonated so well with the community. We had more than 1,200 people RSVP.”

“It was a beautiful and exciting event,” said Rona Rubin, who attended last year’s Illumination Celebration. “Action-packed, and my 4-year-old loved it!”

The event was originally planned by the JCC’s Center for Arts and Culture, but this year it is being presented by J Life, their new engagement initiative. J Life is meant to help Jewish families have “joyful Jewish experiences” as they engage with the religion through community-wide events meant to foster involvement.

In addition to the performances, the first 500 people to arrive at the event will receive a “special gift to use during the show.” Pizza and hot chocolate will be available for purchase, as will adult beverages for older attendees, and the JCC’s J Camps program will hand out glow-in-the-dark tattoos to match the event’s theme of lighting up the darkness.

“Illumination Celebration” is supported with funding and feedback from Phyllis and Leonard Attman and Family. The family is best known for their ownership of Attman’s Deli in Baltimore and Potomac, but frequently engages in philanthropic endeavors through the nonprofit Phyllis L. & Leonard J. Attman Foundation, their private organization.

‘Important to remember the miracle’

Seltzer says the event’s core theme is the miracle of Chanukah and the light that burned for eight days, despite how little oil was left in the Jews’ defiled Temple after the Maccabees defeated the Greek armies as part of a revolt that lasted from 167-160 BCE.

“There’s so much darkness, especially now, that it’s important to remember the miracle,” she said. “It’ll be the first day of the holiday, so it will be an excellent opportunity for us to be able to celebrate it together. And this is a tradition we’ll probably keep doing because it is meaningful in so many ways.”

The event’s webpage advises dressing warmly for the weather and to bring lawn chairs or picnic blankets to watch the show. It also suggests arriving as early as 4 p.m. and being prepared for a longer walk to get to the event space due to potential car and foot traffic.

For more information, see: gordoncenter.com/illuminationcelebration.

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