Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Maccabeats performance gives Denver-area Jewish community a novel way to ring in Hanukkah 

Movie theaters, Chinese food and now a cappella.

Hundreds gathered on Sunday afternoon at George Washington High School to watch a performance by the viral Jewish singing group The Maccabeats, kicking off Hanukkah in the Denver area and providing the city’s Jewish community a fun, alternative option to their unwritten Christmas Day traditions.

“Everything is closed on Christmas,” said Dana Stein, a long-time fan of the group who was at their concert while visiting family from New York. “It’s the jackpot.”

The Maccabeats are a yarmulke-clad a cappella ensemble named after the Maccabees, the ancient Jewish warriors who fought the Greek army and who are central to the story of Hanukkah. The group was founded at Yeshiva University in New York City several years back and have since taken their act on the road — internationally — and onto the internet, where their YouTube videos have won viral status.

Rabbi Raphael Leban, managing director of The Jewish Experience in Denver, said the idea behind Sunday’s concert was to give Colorado Jews a new way to gather and appreciate Hanukkah. There are many events centered around Christmas, he said, but a dearth of novel ways to enjoy what’s known as the Festival of Lights.

“We really wanted to give the Jewish community something fun and exciting,” he said. “The community in Denver has about 50,000 Jews in it. There ‘s a tremendous lack of involvement. The Jews need something to connect them to Judaism.”

The Maccabeats repertoire did just that, mixing traditional Hebrew songs with modern pop hits, such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.”

“Hanukkah is one of the most under-understood holidays,” said Rabbi Ahron Wasserman, who heads up The Jewish Experience. “We really miss the whole point.”


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