Share the Warmth, Shine Bright by Andy Harkavy, Director of Congregational Engagement

This time of year always seems particularly tough. It gets darker earlier. The weather gets colder. Many things which I am excited to do outside become harder to do as a result of the unpredictable weather. Luckily, Charlotte, NC has warmer/shorter winters with many sunnier days than Cincinnati, OH and Baltimore, MD where I previously lived since last living in Charlotte. It still seems tough as it just seems like there are months to pass by before the weather gets nicer and the days/nights are brighter.


There have been some dark moments in the past 2 months, some more literal than others (e.g. power going out). At the same time, I have enjoyed seeing shining moments of a beautiful community.

  • The Charlotte Jewish community and the Charlotte Interfaith community came together so beautifully to create meaningful shared worship experiences and dialogue after the shooting in Pittsburgh.
  • There were multiple opportunities to celebrate each and every night of Chanukah across Charlotte.
  • Temple Beth El was filled with congregants who shed amazing (figurative and literal) light around Temple Beth El.
  • Between LIBERTY, TBERS, Sisterhood, SPICE, Brotherhood, Hebrew High, congregation-wide celebrations, TBE Youth, and The Porch, over 1000 people celebrated Chanukah with Temple Beth El.
  • When the power went out due to the wintry mix, my family had numerous offers from congregants, friends, and colleagues with place to play and even sleep over if needed.
  • 342 hearts and dreidels were taken from the Giving Tree so less fortunate children now will receive gifts during the holidays.

Although December is the darkest month of the year, it was amazing to see so many people create light in some of the darkest days. Jews are commanded to be “a light unto the nations” year-round. Chanukah is a holiday where we are commanded to add light and increase brightness every night adding a candle for each day of Chanukah.

Chanukah at Temple Beth El is one of my favorite times of year as I am able to witness multiple generations celebrate Chanukah together as a congregation in a variety of ways. On Shabbat during Chanukah our sanctuary was so packed we had congregants sitting in the balcony.

Our sanctuary was so bright Rabbi Knight was able to share a story in the dark as the sanctuary was illuminated from the hundreds of chanukiyot that lit up the room.

In the darkest and coldest time of year, I hope that everyone sees the light that shines inside each of us and feels the warmth of our community.