Eight crazy nights

Taglit-Birthright makes a Hanukka effort to ensure its alums stay connected through culture and music.

idan raichel 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
idan raichel 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
The Maccabees didn't rock and roll - but don't tell that to the hundreds, if not thousands, of youth throughout the world who celebrated Hanukka by doing just that. As part of a joint initiative between Taglit-Birthright and JDub Records, "The Eight," hailed as "a crazy worldwide Hanukka party," brought bands to 15 major cities - including New York, Tel Aviv, Washington, Moscow, Los Angeles and Sydney - to perform at a worldwide holiday party last Saturday night. Organizers of the event hoped that "The Eight" would offer concertgoers a way to engage with Judaism outside of an institutional or religious Jewish setting. In addition, representatives from Taglit-Birthright Israel explained that they hoped the event would link all its alumni around the world. "This event is an attempt to create a new Hanukka tradition," said Gidi Mark, Taglit-Birthright Israel's director of marketing. "Taglit has brought participants to Israel from 52 countries... what we are trying to create here is some sort of common denominator to give them a shared culture based on their trip to Israel." "The Eight" evolved from "Jewltide," JDub's holiday concert tours which have taken place over the last five years. When representatives from Taglit-Birthright Israel contacted JDub Records about the possibility of working together to create a worldwide Hanukka celebration, JDub was happy to oblige. "These sorts of events are what JDub does," said Aaron Bisman, a founder of the Jewish record company. Each party featured music from up-and-coming artists hand-picked by JDub. Many of the performers were Israeli, such as Hadag Nachash and the DJ foursome Soulico Crew from Tel Aviv. Though the exact number of partygoers is not yet known, Mark estimated that it was somewhere in the thousands. At the Washington DC party, which was held at and co-sponsored by the Historic Sixth and I Synagogue, the LeeVees, an Indie-Pop group featuring the lead singer of the popular band Guster, entertained the crowd with songs about Hanukka, including one about its many spellings. Members of the band said that their music has helped them, and others, identify with the cultural aspects of Judaism. "Our whole idea was to write original rock songs about Hanukka," says Adam Gardner, a guitarist and vocalist for the LeeVees and Guster. "That's what its about for us, bringing in fresh music and fresh ways to celebrate." The DC event was attended by people of all ages, ranging from young children to senior citizens. "You don't think about attending different events to celebrate the holiday, but [going to "The Eight"] does help me identify with the holiday," said Shayna Smith, a partygoer from Washington. The event also featured holiday messages from celebrities, such as John Cho and Kal Penn, the stars of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. During a holiday greeting that was projected on a screen in front of the audience, Penn jokingly asked if his love of gefilte fish qualified him for a Birthright trip. Organizers said they hope to make the event an annual occurrence, and Mark added that "The Eight" will double in size next year.