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Light the Lights

Agenda, Hanukkah edition: Matisyahu comes clean in Williamsburg, latkes get judged, and a 4,000-pound menorah is lit. Plus our seasonal gift guide!

Stephanie Butnick
December 16, 2011

Agenda is Tablet Magazine’s weekly listing of upcoming cultural events.

New York: Hanukkah is in the air at the Jewish Museum, where author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has curated a selection of 32 Hanukkah lamps (through Jan. 29, $12 museum admission). The New York Historical Society is celebrating A New York Hanukkah, displaying a Hanukkiah designed by Bronx-based silversmith Bernard Bernstein (through Jan. 8, $15 admission). For something more crowd-sourced, head uptown to Grand Army Plaza Tuesday evening (and each subsequent night of Hanukkah) for the lighting of the world’s largest menorah—it’s 23 feet tall and weighs 4,000 pounds. Or pick up Israeli designer Laura Cowan’s more portable slide magnet menorah from new Brooklyn design store Module R and arrange the candles any way you like (Module R, $225). Trust us, we know menorahs.

Newly shorn reggae singer Matisyahu brings his annual Festival of Light to the Music Hall of Williamsburg Monday night for four nights of concerts. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll eke out eight nights (Dec. 19, 20, 21, 8 p.m.; Dec. 22, 7 p.m., $35). For those equally ambivalent on facial hair, perhaps this beanie hat with detachable yarn beard is just the ticket (, $35). The National Yiddish Theater-Folksbiene brings their old school charm to the Arts World Financial Center Sunday with My Yiddishe Chanukah, a festive showcase of holiday songs and klezmer melodies (Dec. 18, 12 p.m., free). On Tuesday, The Sephardic Music Festival presents popular musical acts Nuriya, Pharaoh’s Daughter, and Haale at Le Poisson Rouge (Dec. 20, 7 p.m., $18), while the band Girls in Trouble, led by Alicia Jo Rabin, takes the stage Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (Dec. 21, 7 p.m., $15). After their set, head to the museum’s gift shop and pick up these awesome-looking eco-friendly dreidels made from recycled newspaper (Pickman Museum Shop, $10-$15).

The third annual Latke Festival takes place Monday evening, with attendees sampling the potato-pancake offerings of local restaurants like Kutsher’s Tribeca and Veselka and judges choosing the winning recipe (Dec. 19, 6:30 p.m., $30). For that vain latke enthusiast in your life, how about the I’m So Flippin’ Hot mirrored spatula? They’ll thank you later, we promise (Fred Flare, $24). If you’re shopping for more of a foodie, we recommend this mildly offensive Ah Choo pepper mill—shaped like a giant nose. Form and function! (Fred Flare, $22). Or take them to Shelsky’s Smoked Fish in Brooklyn and enjoy the holiday menu, which boasts five different potato latke items. Christmas envy? Not on our watch.

Girl-power aficionado Gloria Steinem joins the activism-inclined five-piece pop rock band Betty for their late show on Tuesday (Dec. 20, 9:30 p.m., $25), while the Schlep Sisters host the fifth annual burlesque holiday show, Menorah Horah, tomorrow night (Dec. 15, 8 p.m., $15 general admission). Since the somewhat disappointing Nice Jewish Guys 2012 calendar just might not do it for most of your gal pals, support female graphic artists and instead gift Kate Beaton’s new book, Hark! A Vagrant (TopatoCo, $19.95). Another option for the superheroes in your life—the more Jewish, the better, some say—is Peter A. David’s new book, The Spider Man Vault (Amazon, $28.30). And if you’re still up for more partying after Hanukkah ends, you can always celebrate New Year’s Eve with the riotous Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub (Dec. 31, 11 p.m., $150).

Elsewhere: Nextbook Press deputy editor Wayne Hoffman will discuss his new novel, Sweet Like Sugar, on Sunday at congregation Oseh Shalom in Maryland. An exhibit on Chicago’s Jewish history runs through the end of the month (through Dec. 29, free). In San Francisco, the Contemporary Jewish Museum plays host to a Houdini-themed Hanukkah concert on Thursday, with Leonard Cohen tunes performed by all-male musical group, Conspiracy of Beards (Dec. 22, 6 p.m., $5). On Monday, the Klezmatics perform a holiday concert Monday at the L.A. Philharmonic (Dec. 19, 8 p.m., $38 and up).

At the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, New York Times reporter Diana Henriques discusses Bernie Madoff—the grinchiest Grinch of all—whose case she reported on extensively, visiting Madoff twice in jail (Dec. 21, 7 p.m., $20). On a lighter, less scandalous note, the San Francisco MOMA offers a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi creation, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Dec. 29, 7 p.m., $5). Bring these trippy Dreidel Vision Goggles for full viewing effect (The Jewish Museum, $3). But please, don’t spin and drive.

Abroad: London’s Jewish Community Centre hosts a three-day-long, family-friendly Hanukkah party (Dec. 18, 2-4 p.m.; Dec. 19, 20, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., free). Groovy, baby? Jerusalem’s Encore Educational Theatre Company tackles yet another Gilbert and Sullivan musical, putting on seven showings of H.M.S. Pinafore (Dec. 27-Jan. 5, see showtimes, NIS 100). For the younger relatives in Israel, children’s game Bananagrams is now available in Hebrew (Modern Tribe, $20).

Happy holidays. Agenda returns in January, 2012.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.