The Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center is no stranger to traditional Hanukkah celebrations. Remembrance of its history through observance and menorah lighting is typical, but this year's festival of lights is not about looking back. It's about moving forward.

On Dec. 12, the fifth night of Hanukkah, the JCC will hold its Community Chanukah Celebration and Sandy Relief "Fun-raiser" - a night intended to attract members of the Jewish community, young or old, for a good cause.

"This year we really want to take the event to another level," said Josh Cutler, JCC program director.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. It will include a community menorah lighting, traditional fried latkes and doughnuts, and interactive crafts for children, which will give adults the chance to connect, Cutler said.

But the program director expects the most exciting aspect of the night to be a live performance by Mama Doni and her band, he said.

The Jewish rock star incorporates rock, reggae, bluegrass and traditional Yiddish sounds. She has sung for both the JCC's younger and older community at previous events and has delighted both crowds, he said.

"She's very interactive. She gets people up on stage, gets them singing and dancing," Cutler said.

The performer will provide a complimentary signed CD for every attendee, he added.

Although the night focuses around Hanukkah festivities, the event is open to members of the community from "all walks of life," Cutler said. The event is $10 per person, or $36 for a family of four, he said. All proceeds will benefit the Jewish Family Service of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, which has helped serve 2,000 families affected by Hurricane Sandy, said Leigh Turner, the service's community initiatives coordinator.

In the days after the storm, the service was able to provide food, personal necessities, cleaning supplies, winter clothes and more to local people in need, but now it is moving on to the recovery phase, Turner said. Donations will be used to help those displaced obtain


"We were thrilled," Turner said of the JCC's outreach. "Any time that another agency helps us help the community, it has a positive impact for everyone in the area."

Cutler expects a successful night because of the popularity of the Mama Doni Band, but more importantly for the opportunity to help a greater cause.

"It's a chance for us as a community to rally around a good cause, which is helping other people in need, and celebrating the festival of lights, which is Hanukkah," he said.

Contact Caitlin Honan:


If you go


Chanukah Community Celebration and Sandy Relief 'Fun-raiser'


6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 12


Milton and Katz Jewish Community Center, 501 N. Jerome Ave., Margate

How much:

$10 per person, $36 for a family of four

More info:

If you wish to donate to Jewish Family Service or are in need of service, call 609-822-1109 or email