When grown-ups toast “l’chaim” this Hanukkah season, there’s a good chance there will be vodka in their cocktail glasses.
A trendy type of Hanukkah celebration for adults has grown in popularity on Long Island over the past few years. Dubbed Latkes & Vodkas parties, dates stretch from the first weekend in December through Dec. 29, which this year marks the end of the eight-night holiday.
The catchy name, which offers a grown-up cocktail party theme, caught on simply because vodkas rhymes with latkes, organizers say. “If latkes rhymed with bourbon, it would be ‘Latkes and Bourbon’,” jokes Rabbi Steven Conn, of the Plainview Jewish Center, whose third annual party took place on Dec. 7. Having the event on the first Saturday in December each year ushers in the Hanukkah season, Conn says. “It initially began as an event for our younger couples and it just mushroomed into a full-blown temple event. This is one of the highlights of the year.”
MORE SOCIAL THAN RELIGIOUS
The themed party that wraps up the holiday season on Dec. 29 — hosted by the Jericho-based Jewish organization MiYaD — is perhaps the oldest on Long Island. Entering its 10th year, the party has grown so much that for the first time, it will happen in a restaurant venue — Bayville's Crescent Beach Club — instead of the Chabad house in Jericho. “It took on a life of its own,” Rabbi Chanan Krivisky says of the gathering that pairs tastings of Russian and Polish vodkas with a latke bar offering Asian- and Mexican-themed toppings.
Such parties range in price, with tickets to the MiYaD event starting at $18 and others costing as much as $80 per person. Some are held in private homes, others in temples or catering halls.
At Temple Chaverim in Plainview, the annual party was a ladies’ night out run by the congregation’s Sisterhood committee; at East Meadow Jewish Center, this year's second annual party was a joint Sisterhood and Men’s Club event. “Nobody gets drunk; we’re talking about pretty levelheaded people,” says Carey Welt, a chairman of the board of the East Meadow Jewish Center Men’s Club.
The gatherings are more social than religious, organizers say, a way for the adult Jewish community members to do something fun together at Hanukkah.
“Usually, the kids are the focus because they’re the ones getting gifts,” says Jared Friedmann, 42, a lawyer from Roslyn and one of the coordinators of a party hosted on Dec. 14 by Temple Beth Shalom in Roslyn. “This is for adults to enjoy the holiday as well.” This year, the fifth annual party was at a temple member’s home in East Hills and included specialty drinks such as a Menorah-tini and a Judah Maccabee Punch Out — Maccabee was a hero of the Hanukkah story.
SOME ELABORATE AFFAIRS
This is the first year that the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in East Hills hosted a party; that event was at The Swan Club in Roslyn and included a buffet dinner, open bar, DJ and raffles for 125 people. “We’re just looking for new, fun ways to engage adults in the parenting community, something to get them excited to come out,” says Trisha Watro, public relations and communications manager for the JCC. The event was a fundraiser for the JCC’s early childhood center.
The Plainview Jewish Center event was also a more elaborate affair with dinner, dessert, DJ, dancing and a photo booth. “It’s like a bar or bat mitzvah without the bar or bat mitzvah kid,” says Stacy Meyerson, 48, a health care administrator and a Plainview Jewish Center vice president.
The upcoming MiYaD party on Dec. 29 is set to include a menorah lighting because the party is scheduled for one of the nights of the holiday, Krivisky says. Unlike most of the other Latkes & Vodkas parties, families can bring children to this one, he says. Everyone who attends will get to participate in the holiday often called the Festival of Lights. “Everyone who walks in gets a candle. It lights up the whole room,” Krivisky says. “It’s very beautiful.”