Friday, April 16, 2021

(Courtesy of OHEL) For decades, and with great thanks to our sponsors Lea and Sammy Trencher, Ohel has been hosting large and festive Chanukah parties for clients, staff and family guests. As the highlight of the entire year, the parties bring an abundance of food (think mountains of latkes and doughnuts), music (envision Shloime Dachs performing with Ohel clients), entertainment (picture magicians, other live performances and more) and gift giving to the delight of Ohel’s clients and guests. Another joy of the season has been Ohel’s well known Chanukah Gift Drive with participation from 200-plus schools, synagogues and organizations across the tri-state area. This Chanukah initiative has ensured that every Ohel individual receives an age-appropriate holiday gift.

Enter 2020.

Isolation, quarantine, masks, social distancing and red zones are part of everyone’s reality during the pandemic. With Chanukah around the corner, Ohel faced a huge conundrum. How is Ohel going to light up the lives of the hundreds of children and adults with developmental and psychiatric disabilities, women and children who live in Ohel’s domestic violence shelters, foster children and so many community members for whom Ohel is their lifeline?

With innovation, creativity and commitment, Ohel’s team of devoted professionals decided to adapt the successful Chanukah programming of the past to the need for a safe yet joyous present. Fortunately, the Trencher family agreed to serve once again as the major sponsor of Chanukah at Ohel. They, too, said there has to be a way to share Chanukah happiness and bring light to the Ohel family.

So, Ohel brought an epic Chanukah to hundreds!

Taking the celebratory quarantine drive-by to a new level, the party was delivered to the individuals living in Ohel residences. Thanks to support of the Trenchers, Shloime Dachs, a dedicated Ohel board member who has often performed at Ohel’s Chanukah parties and is beloved by Ohel clients, boarded the Ohel Chanukah Float Celebration, a traveling concert that visited more than a dozen residences over two days. As the parade of cars pulled up to each residence, Dachs broke into song atop the float. Delighted individuals with developmental disabilities rushed outside to dance and clap to the holiday songs. And Ohel staff delivered sufganiyot and gifts to all.

In-person gift drives weren’t possible this year, but schools and shuls still managed to collect the gifts so desperately needed. Thousands more visited Ohel’s new online gift catalog to purchase gifts specially requested by the individuals in Ohel’s care. https://giftcatalog.ohelfamily.org/.

And, separately, with the goal of brightening an additional night of Chanukah, Ohel delivered a “Party in a Box.” Michael Schick, a longtime friend of Ohel and caterer par excellence of Ohel’s Annual Gala, came to the rescue. Individuals living in an Ohel residence, foster children and their foster families, women and children living in Ohel’s domestic violence shelter, and other clients were treated to a “Make-your-own Pizza Party” consisting of everything needed to make a delectable pizza with all the toppings, as well as ready-made latkes, doughnuts, drinks and festive party goods.

Ohel is fortunate to have the following sponsors help make these magical moments happen this year: Lea and Sammy Trencher and family, Shloime Dachs Orchestra, Jerry and Barbara Weissman, Chani and Jay Kestenbaum and others.

Ohel rocked Chanukah this year. If you’d like to know more about how to volunteer or participate in future Ohel efforts, please contact Kaila Lasky, coordinator of volunteer services at 347-786-0788 or email at [email protected].