Brewing Up New Jewish Holiday Traditions

raven sukkot

By Rabbi Jessy Gross
Director, Charm City Trive

Last year, when I started Charm City Tribe, my goal was to try a number of different things to see what worked and then build on those experiences.  I hosted events around the holidays in hopes that people would embrace the opportunity to tap into the rhythm of the Jewish calendar.  We made Chanukah candles, as well as hamentashen, and I even held a seder for 25 people at my house during Pesach.

This year, Charm City Tribe is excited about three big community events we are hosting. Our goal is to find a few moments on the Jewish calendar where we can bring together young adults to celebrate and honor Jewish tradition.

Over Sukkot, we erected a mobile sukkah, which made appearances at bars in Federal Hill, Fells Point, Canton and even at the Raven’s tailgate. We decked the Sukkah with Ravens paraphanalia, harvest goods and even a disco ball. We estimated that more than 100 people shook the lulav and etrog in the Sukkah and even more came up to us, asking about “that silly hut on the back of [our] pick-up truck.”

In two weeks, we are hosting a Hannukah Brew Ha Ha at Union Craft Brewery. Partly because of location, mostly because of close relationships, the brewery is the perfect place to bring together a group of people to celebrate the holiday.  I work with the new Charm City Program Associate, Ellie Brown, to think about how we can elevate the ideas and themes of Chanukah even in a setting mostly geared towards socializing.

We’ve identified eight themes that we want to permeate the Brew Ha Ha: Power and Powerlessness, Light, Pride, Miracles, Strength, Giving, Resilience and Vulnerability.  For each of these themes we have identified a community partner. These partners have each identified an activity to do at the Brew Ha Ha that will give our participants an opportunity to think more about the holiday themes, while also learning about some great things going on in the Baltimore Jewish community.

The new Repair the World fellows will be doing an activity as it relates to power and powerlessness.  JQ Baltimore will be able to talk about what they do through their engagement with the theme of pride, while Beyond Birthright alum will have the chance to think about the vulnerability of returning from a birthright trip and weaving that experience into one’s Jewish identity at home.  Perhaps once of the most exciting thing on the menu for the Brew Ha Ha is a specially-flavored beer made with etrogs from our Sukkot festivities.

I continue to emphasize that everything we do needs to be low barrier and high content.  It is a challenge to find a way to bring together young adults and to imbue a socially forward gathering with meaningful content.  However, it is also a great opportunity to find creative ways to showcase the richness of our holiday cycle and give our people chances to learn and to further plug in.  This is all part of our work of engagement as we seek to strengthen the individual and collective Jewish identity of our wandering young adult generation.

The Hannukah Brew Ha Ha is scheduled for 7:30 – 9:30 on December 3 at Union Craft Brewery.  Stay tuned for our third scheduled event this 5774 – a second night community seder with a rock and roll performance of Hallel to enjoy during the fourth cup of wine.

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