July 18, 2019

NuRoots’ Infinite Light: Celebrating Hanukkah After the Fires

Infinite Light, a citywide festival of Hanukkah events organized by NuRoots, a 20s and 30s initiative run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, began this past summer with upward of 35 organizational partners and individuals planning events. They ranged from meditation to storytelling and everything in between.

The marketing plan was set. Social media posts had been written and scheduled. Then the fires hit and everything changed.

“Our mind-shift has definitely changed, regarding marketing and the framing of the program” said Margalit Rosenthal, senior vice president of NuRoots. “We pressed pause while everything was going on. Now, as we’re coming back, we’re really focusing the message less on ‘celebration,’ and not using language in a joking way.”

In previous years, events had names like “Vodka and Latkes,” “Let’s Get Lit for Hanukkah” and “Light it Up.” But this year, Rosenthal explained, the overall framing for L.A.’s Infinite Light has shifted.

“Now is the time to actually feel the community that comes together in times of crisis like this,” Rosenthal said. “There are a lot of scary things in this city and community. We are really looking to give people an outlet during this time, the comfort of feeling that community.”

From Nov. 30 through Dec. 9, NuRoots is helming Infinite Light’s festival of diverse programs to celebrate Hanukkah that covers a wide geographical swath of the Los Angeles map. The array of programs includes hosted experiences in arts and culture, civic engagement, food, fitness, games, global Jewish culture, Israel, LGBTQ+, music, Shabbat, social justice and storytelling for singles, young couples and young families.

Among this year’s offerings are Hanukkah in Marrakesh, hosted by a NuRoots community member in a private home in West Hollywood. Art and Storytime with PJ Library is taking place in Beverly Grove. Master Debater, a debate on the themes and ideas of Hanukkah with a comedic bent, is sponsored by East Side Jews in Silver Lake. Festival of Rights, hosted by Bend the Arc in Sherman Oaks, celebrates the holiday and the work of young Jewish leaders in their Jeremiah Fellowship Program. Glow: Cocktail Party & Comedy Podcast features IKAR’s Rabbi David Kasher in conversation with his brother, comedian Moshe Kasher, in Pico-Robertson. And JQ International’s annual “Gelty Pleasures” Hanukkah party, this year with a story slam, takes place in West Hollywood.

“Now is the time to actually feel the community that comes together in times of crisis like this. We are really looking to give people an outlet during this time, the comfort of feeling that community.” — Margalit Rosenthal

One of the stipulations of Infinite Light partners, who receive partnership investments ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on the size and extent of collaboration with partnering organizations and individuals, is that the events not be fundraisers. Even in the aftermath of the fires, there doesn’t seem to have been a pivot by event organizers, but it is something that NuRoots would be open to, if the hosts requested it.

“None have come and asked to raise money for our fire relief fund,” Rosenthal said. “[But] if they did, we’d figure out a way. People are reeling and trying to figure out how to do the program they are already doing, without having to change [them].”

Why so many events? Because L.A. is a large city and from the Federation’s perspective, “shows a healthy economy,” Rosenthal said. “There are so many young Jews in the city. We don’t anticipate anyone having issues filling up their space,” she said, noting that in a large community, there’s always going to be a lot of events. “But we’re also conscious of not programming similar events on the same nights and in the same location. We listen to our partners.”

Ultimately, Rosenthal said, Infinite Light’s Hanukkah celebrations will continue, and will provide a sense of belonging that many — even those in pain — may find comforting.

“Hanukkah is celebratory and fun,” she said. “We want people to feel that, but also want them to feel the connection to the community.”