Chabad Lubavitch's idea of bringing "Chanukah Wonderlands" to area malls stems from the desire to make the story of the Jewish revolt against the Syrian Greeks come alive for children during a month where all things Christmas are seemingly everywhere.
"If you are a little Jewish boy or girl, it might not be all that comfortable during this month," said Rabbi Yossi Kaplan of the Chabad Lubavitch of Chester County: Jewish Center in Devon. "We really emphasize the miracle of Chanukah."
From Dec. 12 through Jan. 2, Chabad of Chester County will be running a "Chanukah Wonderland" store at the Chesterbrook Village Shopping Center, 500 Chesterbrook Blvd. in nearby Wayne. During that time, the space will serve as a retail outlet where customers can buy dozens of different kinds of menorahs, Chanukah candles, cookbooks and more.
Kaplan explained that proceeds will help offset the free programming - including baking doughnuts and Chanukah cookies - that will take place at the wonderland. A complete listing of events is available online at: www.jewishchestercounty.com .
Chabad Lubavitch of Montgomery County will also be running a Chanukah Wonderland at a storefront at 38 E. Skippack Pike in Blue Bell from Dec. 12 through Dec. 30. This particular project is now in its fifth year.
Devorah Deitsch, who is overseeing the activities, said there will be plenty of entertainment for both younger and older kids. Events include a pajama party, a drum cafe and a martial-arts lesson called "Be a Maccabee With Tae Kwon Do." For more information, call 215-591-9310.
"We give the kids an opportunity to have positive Jewish experiences," said Deitsch, adding that the walls of the store will be covered with a professionally-painted mural outlining the Chanukah story.
She said the storefront is currently vacant, and that the owner donated the space to Lubavitch. Kaplan said he is paying far less than the roughly $5,000 it would normally cost to lease his space during the holiday season.
Some of the highlights of the Lubavitch of Bucks County Chanukah Wonderland will include Chanukah origami, a ventriloquist show, and a family day featuring cookie-baking and an olive-oil press demonstration. The wonderland, operating from Dec. 4 through Dec. 30 at the Summit Square Shopping Center in Langhorne, will also feature a daily children's program.
For a complete list of events, call 215-968-2407.
Wonderlands will be far from the only Chanukah happenings in town throughout December.
Dozens of programs, ranging from puppeteers to musical performances sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, are also scheduled to ensure that the Festival of Lights remains festive.
For more about Federation events and other Chanukah activities, refer all month to the Community Calendar.