St. Louis Hanukkah Celebrations: Hipster or Hasidic?

Dec 7, 2012 at 6:30 am

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Definitely hipster. The Disco Dreidel is already on display at STL Style House. - image via
Definitely hipster. The Disco Dreidel is already on display at STL Style House.

Category 1: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 2: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 3: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 4: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 5: A. Hasidic, B. Hipster Category 6: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic Category 7: A. Hipster, B. Hasidic

This is the first year of Chanukah in the Loop. "One of the central themes of Chanukah is that it should be celebrated in a public manner," notes Novack of Wash. U. Chabad. "Where is more appropriate than the Loop?"

Especially this year, since, thanks to the vagaries of the lunar Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is earlier than usual and Novack's primary constituency, the Wash. U. student population, is still around. "It's a way to connect to Judaism," says Novack. "It's relevant and accessible. It fits all our goals."

This year is the second Hanukkah Hullabaloo. "It's not tied to any organized forms of practicing," says David Lazaroff, who, along with his brother and bandmate Jeff, organized the party. "We're all over the board."

Last year's Hanukkah Hullabaloo was inspired in part by Kinky Friedman, whose Hanukkah Tour played Off Broadway, and by the band Yo La Tengo, which throws a hipster Hanukkah party in New Jersey every year. The Brothers Lazaroff got their wives (call them the Sisters-in-Law Lazaroff) to fry latkes and invited some of their friends to perform, including the band Vaad, comprised of Ben Kaplan and several other St. Louis musicians, and Rabbi James Stone Goodman of the Neve Shalom synagogue, who read a series of poems called "Eight Nights" (one poem for each night of Hanukkah) while the musicians backed him up with what Lazaroff calls "deconstructed klezmer music."

The music went so well with Goodman's poems that the Brothers Lazaroff decided it should be recorded. The following week they went into the studio and started selling the result on the website Within two weeks, they'd made $6,500, all of which they donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.

And thus a tradition was born. This year's celebration will be similar, but bigger. Another set of brothers, Jeff and Randy Vines of STL Style House, contributed the menorah, the spinning dreidel disco ball and souvenir t-shirts bearing the slogan "You can't spell 'latkes' without STL." (Very true.) And all the proceeds will go to Goodman's One Life Whole World Project, which provides services for prisoners and people with addictions and mental illnesses.

But this is not to say you have to make a definite choice about whether to go Hasidic or hipster this Hanukkah. The timing is such that you could very easily make it to both parties. David Lazaroff says that Rabbi Chaim Landa of St. Louis Chabad has already RSVP'd to the Hanukkah Hullabaloo. So there.