Hanukkah occupies a particular emotional place for the Jewish adult. As a child, the Festival of Lights is a highly effective form of misdirection, keeping us distracted from the holly jolly mainstream fun all the Christmas kids are having. As an adult, you come to realize that’s by design. From the chocolate gelt to the singalongs, Hanukkah is a completely secular holiday engineered in modern times to do exactly that—prevent FOMO in Jewish kids.
Still, it’s all we’ve got, and as Jewish holidays go, at least the food is solid. Here in the Bay Area, we also have a vibrant arts scene, along with a few great delis and bakeries, that turns its attention to Hanukkah for eight-ish crazy nights of the year. Not to mention live comedy, the likes of which has sustained us as a people for thousands of years. So follows our Standard picks for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
SF’s Jewish Community Center returns to Ghirardelli Square for a Hanukkah carnival of live music, dreidel, crafts and, of course, a communal menorah lighting. Glittery and glow-in-the-dark costumes are encouraged.
We were excited when Loquat opened in October because this Levantine bakery was already teasing its jelly donuts for the Hanukkah season, and that moment has finally arrived. It’s best to pick up sufganiyot, perfectly fluffy with a delicate flurry of powdered sugar on top, on the second night of Hanukkah, so you can justify buying whatever else is in the pastry case—babka or boureka, perhaps—and ration your bounty for the rest of the holiday.
📍333 Post St., SF
🗓️ 5:30 p.m. each night, except for Friday, Dec. 23 (2:30 p.m.), and Saturday, Dec. 24 (8:30 p.m.), due to Shabbat
A giant menorah installed in Union Square has been getting lit since 1975, when rock promoter and Holocaust survivor Bill Graham, along with other community leaders, banded together to organize the first big, public candle-lighting ceremony outside of Israel. This year, folks will gather around the “mama menorah” each night for drinks, dreidel, music and more.
As one of the only authentic Jewish delicatessens in the Bay Area, the pressure to deliver good latke for Hanukkah is high, but Saul’s rises to the occasion. You might try to plan your visit somewhere around the fourth night, when you’re likely all schmaltzed out at home and need a break from cooking. You can also preorder latkes, brisket, kugel, gelt and sufganiyot for takeout and get the best of both worlds.
Pull up to Chabad of San Francisco’s HQ on the fifth night, when a procession of cars donning (unlit!) menorah ornaments will parade through Downtown SF. Transit nerds can ride along the car parade on a decorated “mitzvah cable car” instead.
Mission | SoMa | Oakland
Like any good festival, Hanukkah is a marathon and not a sprint. As such, you’re going to need more provisions on the sixth night. Wise Sons Deli has you covered with a full catering menu of latkes, challah, matzo ball soup, brisket and other Hebraic sundries.
Jewbilee SF hosts perhaps the most unz unz-ing Hanukkah party at 1015 Folsom. For the 25th annual Latke Ball, expect a late night of dancing, a silent disco, some kind of nightclub-worthy candle lighting and other surprises. Formal or cocktail attire is a must.
What are Jews supposed to do on Christmas? Well, for the past 30 years, Kung Pao Kosher Comedy has answered that question with a night of inside jokes and wordplay at a Chinese restaurant. Given New Asia Restaurant’s pandemic closure, this year a banquet hall at Congregation Sherith Israel will transform into “the Kung Pao Room,” playing host to Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cathy Ladman, stand-up comedian Mark Schiff and others. Livestream tickets are also available.
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