It was a wet, rainy night on the first night of Chanukah, yet families with children with special needs got a warm welcome as they walked into Beis Rivkahs beautifully decorated Rosa Hall. The numbers this year far surpassed any other event that FC has hosted, with over 500 people registered to attend this exclusive Friendship Circle Family Chanukah Party.
The hallway entrance boasted a long array of tables, each one offering something special to every single person who walked in. As the families arrived, they received specially designed, New-York themed T-shirts for the event. Every child was given a goodie bag filled with special treats and a statue of liberty crown. As the families continued down the line of tables, they had the opportunity to take a family photo at the Chanukah photo booth and take home a spectacular framed photo souvenir!
A gorgeous display of Latkes, doughnuts, New York-style pretzels, and drinks greeted the families in the main hall. There was a breathtaking backdrop specially painted by Rosie Benabou depicting the famous NYC skyline. A large Menorah graced the stage, to be lit later on in the evening.
The lights dimmed, and the band stuck a chord. Everyone rushed to their seats in anticipation. It was time for the concert to begin! Benny Friedman opened the concert with a popular Chanukah song, and everyone started clapping along. A cheer rose up from the crowd as Benny started to sing “No Lyrics,” and everyone waved their glow sticks to the beat in “Bum Bum.” The crowd burst into dance as Benny Friedman began to sing “Ivri Anochi.” What an energy!
Then, the music quieted and it was time to light the Menorah. Everyone directed their attention to Friendship Circle’s own in-house Chazzan and volunteer Yehuda Reichman, as he lit the Menorah and sang a moving rendition of Haneiros Halalu. Soon enough, the music picked up again and everyone had their arms around each other as they danced to a variety of Benny’s hit songs. Many FC participants had the opportunity to join Benny Friedman on stage, singing with him and even playing some of the instruments!
As the music slowed and the concert came to an end, the families were called to receive the gifts prepared from Friendship Circle of Brooklyn’s Chanukah Toy Drive, held in Zchus of Yissi Spiegel. The toys were sponsored in part by “Toys for Hospitalized Children,” a division of the NCFJE, Mr. Eli Weinstock and family, and dozens of individual gift donations from generous community members. The specially wrapped gifts were set aside with each child’s interests in mind – all FC members, as well as their siblings received a brand new gift. The Twins from France made a surprise appearance, giving out a selection of their entertaining DVD’s to all who were present. The smiles on each child’s face as they received their Chanukah gifts spoke volumes! As the beaming children left the hall, they received a dollar for Chanukah Gelt. What a community, what a celebration, what an evening of absolute light, joy, and unity!
The Chanukah Celebration would not have been possible without the help of the caring and dedicated FC team, staff, and volunteers headed by Rochel Karp, Lulu Feldman, Ruta Cohen, Sheina Chincholker, and Mendy Richler. Thank you Rabbi Chaim Pape for stepping in as MC. We would like to thank all our high school volunteers, and our Alumni and Friends Division who lent a hand on the night of the event: Mushka Nathanson, Miriam Gansburg, and Chani Spielman. A huge thank you to our generous donors, without whom none of this would have been possible – every child and family is still basking in the gift of your Friendship. Thank you to Benz’s Food Co. for the Latkes, the Twins from France, and countless others who contributed to and volunteered their precious time and expertise to make this all happen. Thank you for your ongoing friendship and support!