Just in time to bring a bit of brightness into a dark year, Santa Barbara’s Jewish families and their friends will be firing up the menorahs at sundown on December 10 to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, which lasts until the evening of December 18. Here are numerous ways to feed your body and mind during the eight-night Festival of Lights.
Edjudaica’s Be the Light Chanukah Celebration Kit
Earlier in her career as a Jewish educator, Samantha Silverman was known to dress up like a bee and dance on top of her desk to show why the sweet nectar of honey was an appropriate treat for Rosh Hashanah. But today, the Santa Barbara teacher and entrepreneur is working a bit more inside the box, at least literally, through her company Edjudaica, which prepares educational and entertaining packages to teach about Judaism in engaging ways.
“Edjudaica reimagines Jewish education,” she explained. “We create project-based curriculum kits designed to inspire creative thinking, nourish emotional intelligence, and deepen family engagement with Jewish traditions in the place it matters most, the home. Although COVID-19 provided the inspiration for this company, I have spent many years of my career thinking about ways to bring Jewish learning to life outside of the classroom.”
Though born in Santa Cruz and raised on the West Coast, Silverman’s educational path led her through Israel after high school and a graduate degree in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism while “freezing my tuchus off” at Yale after getting her undergrad degree in Jewish studies from UCLA. She first came to Santa Barbara in 2008, when her mom, Cyndi Silverman, took a job as the regional director of ADL; Cyndi is now the executive director of the Jewish Federation here.
The younger Silverman has worked as a Hebrew schoolteacher at Congregation B’nai B’rith and Community Shul, and as director of Camp Haverim. That’s where she was when COVID-19 hit, forcing the summer camp to go remote via boxes that Silverman packed full of educational and fun activities. “I received such glowing and moving feedback from parents and campers that I knew I couldn’t stop there,” she said.
The kit includes eight activities for each night, including scrap-made keepsake menorahs, origami paper flames, blessing jars, marshmallow dreidels, solar ovens, and scavenger hunts. “My hope is that the activities, crafts, and baking projects in this box will fill the home with laughter and joy (not to mention the delicious scent of fried dough!) and enrich families’ connection to their Jewish heritage during an unusual time,” said Silverman. “I also hope these kits will provide a bit of relief to tired parents and entertainment to stir-crazy kids!”
The foodiest activity is the making of sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts. “Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees fought for and won back their right to freely observe their religious beliefs,” explained Silverman as to the significance of doughnuts in the holiday. “There was only enough oil to relight the eternal light for one day, yet somehow, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights! In honor of this miracle of oil, we eat fried foods!” That explains latkes as well.
For Silverman, there’s more to the process as well. “I love working with yeast recipes — there is something transformational and magical about proofing,” she said. “It can also be temperamental and frustrating if the conditions aren’t just right. A bit like life!”
She’s already garnering lots of interest as far away as New York for Passover kits, and is launching two subscription boxes for 2021. One is called the “Shabbox,” which is focused on recipes, crafts, and teachings for the weekly sabbath. The other is the “Aleph Bet Beginners’ Box,” a 10-month series introducing students to two Hebrew letters per month through games, art, baking — “basically,” said Silverman, “whatever gets your hands dirty.”
Order your Be the Light: A Chanukah Celebration Kit at edjudaica.com.
LATKES @ LUCKY’S: Montecito’s famed steakhouse is serving potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce for $15 during Hanukkah, and it’s always a great place for their $16 bowl of matzo ball soup. “For 20 years, it has been a privilege to provide these treats to our beloved community.,” said Leonard Schwartz, the restaurant’s longtime GM and executive chef. 1279 Coast Village Rd., Montecito; (805) 565-7540; luckys-steakhouse.com
CHALLAH & PIES @ HELENA AVENUE BAKERY: Helena Avenue Bakery’s “Holiday Provisions” takeout menus include baked-to-order challah ($11/loaf) and pies in s’more, Fuji apple, and winter citrus flavors ($28-$32). There’s also signature Parker House Rolls ($15/dozen) and a Holiday Stuffing Mix ($12), which would work for any holiday celebration. They require an order 48 hours in advance. 131 Anacapa St.; (805) 880-3383; helenaavenuebakery.com
ZACA CREEK TAVERN HAPPY HOUR KIT: The new restaurant at Zaca Creek in Buellton will be offering a Hanukkah Happy Hour kit featuring kosher bourbon, latkes, and apple butter, with delivery available throughout the Santa Ynez Valley. 1297 Jonata Park Rd., Buellton; (805) 688-2412; zaca-creek.com
MATZO IN LOS ALAMOS: Entrepreneur extraordinaire Carole Bennett — whose matzo ball soup, brisket, desserts, and bridge school we’ve written about in past years — recently moved to Los Alamos. This year, her matzo ball soup will be served at Plenty on Bell during Hanukkah. She doesn’t know if Chef Jesper Johansson will give it a special name, but Bennnett pledged, “It will be the only place in the entire Santa Ynez Valley that will have homemade chicken matzo ball soup!” 508 Bell St., Los Alamos; (805) 344-3020; plentyonbell.com
VIRTUAL LATKE KING: Like everyone else, Santa Barbara’s “Latke King” Doug Weinstein went virtual in 2020, taking his kitchen skills — which he typically used to make latkes, brisket, and much more for Hanukkah celebrations across the region — into your home with on-screen cooking classes. Held the first and third Thursdays of each month, “Get Baked with Doug” has featured sweet kugel, knish, challah, and chocolate babka recipes, among many others, all of which are posted online. He’ll be teaching his infamous latke recipe on December 17, and sending out ingredient kits in advance. See the calendar at JewishSantaBarbara.com.
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