Celebrating Hannukah at Boulder as an Israeli!

By Noa Kurlender

I have been a Shinshinit with JEWISHColorado for almost four months now, and I can tell you that when I ask the people I engage with what their favorite holiday is, most of the time, the answer is, “Hanukkah,” which is why I was very excited to celebrate my first Hanukkah here.

As an Israeli teen, there were some new (and at first, weird) things I was exposed to while celebrating the holiday the “American” way, like putting apple sauce or sour cream on your latkes (still don’t get this one) or the way most families give gifts to each other every night (which I think is lovely), but the hardest part about being an Israeli here in Colorado during Hanukkah was the lack in real sufganiot and their inferior replacement of doughnuts.

All the differences did not bother me from having one of the best Hanukkahs in my life, and a lot of the credit for it goes to the events here in Boulder!

It is no secret that Boulder is my favorite place to drive to, even if there’s a little bit traffic, and this week I got to drive from the JEWISHColorado office in Denver to Boulder three times for three amazing Hanukkah parties.

On Thursday the Boulder JCC hosted a teen party for teens, featuring a “make your own Pho soup” station, some dreidels (of course) and a DIY Sufganiot decoration (actual sufganiot- not doughnuts). Tzuria Malpica, the amazing director of Jewish Culture club made the dough for the sufganiot and the pho soup herself! Twenty teens attended, and Yoav (a fellow Shinshinim) and I had so much fun! The Jewish Culture club happens every Thursday at the Boulder JCC, led by Tzuria, and if you know any Boulder teen in high school, I highly recommend that they check it out and also meet Yoav and me.

On Friday, more than 50 students attended an amazing Shabbat dinner and menorah lightning at CU Boulder Hillel. I have already mentioned how much I love the CU campus. Even though the campus is beautiful,  I think the Hillel staff and the students are even better than the view.

The moment you walk into the Hillel house you feel so welcomed, and the students are always interested in talking to the two Israelis that are not students but keep showing up. The students are so nice and keep asking questions about our gap year, about military service, and about Israel. We are so happy to be there every other week and answer these questions.

After taking a day off to fry yogurt Sufganiot with my new host family, I sealed my American Hanukkah with Har Hashem Congregation in Boulder. Allow me to tell you a secret: usually I am not the Shinshinit who goes to Har Hashem, but on Sunday, I got lucky and since the original Har Hashem Shinshin had another commitment, I got to attend their Hanukkah party! It was a lovely family event, including a play about the Hanukkah story, latkes, and jelly doughnuts, camp-styled games, a scavenger hunt, and a rotation of stations.

I got to lead the candle making station, where we dipped white candles in colorful crayons and created a set of candles to that day’s menorah lightning. We also had a chance to share the differences between Hanukkah celebrations in Israel and America, and I still didn’t get the apple sauce on latkes saga (as you can tell, it really bothers me).

As you can tell, volunteering for JewishColorado in my gap year can sometimes be busy, especially on the holidays, but with an amazing Jewish community, like the one we have in Boulder, even the busy days are fun. Every day, we feel more lucky to be here and get to know many of you, and we look forward to meeting more people during the rest of the year.

Happy Holidays!


About Shinshinim

Hey everyone! My name is Noa Kurlender and I am one of the four new Shinshinim in Colorado. A Shinshin is the Hebrew shortcut for "Shnat Shierot"- A year of service, a program that allows us to postpone our mandatory IDF service by a year and volunteer. There are many different kinds of Shinshinim in Israel, but I really wanted to experience the difference between Israel and the U.S, and bring the Jewish community in Colorado closer to Israel, and hopefully the bring Colorado back to Israel with me. The Shinshinim work at Jewish clubs at public high schools, at Denver Jewish Day School, at CU boulder, CSU and DU Hillel, at the Boulder JCC, and many different synagogues in Denver and Boulder. Being a Shinshin definitely means learning something you every day- about ourselves, about America and about our homeland. I am so thankful for the right I've been given to spend my Shinshin here in Colorado, and especially to share my journey with you. Until we leave after summer camps and go back to Israel to serve in IDF, I will document some of the amazing things we get to do here and share them with you. A little bit about myself- I am the oldest of 3. My family lives in Atlit, a town 10 minutes away from Haifa, just by the beach. I graduated high school a few months ago. I majored in Computer Science and Physics, and hope that my army service will have something to do with these subjects. I love reading books and going on hikes, and enjoy Colorado views so much!

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