Hanukkah on the Canal Parade

A raft proceeds down the Venice Canals in last year’s Open Temple Hanukkah on the Canals Parade. Photos: Courtesy.

Open Temple’s holiday celebration with a backstory to match. 

By Sam Catanzaro 

Hanukkah is well underway and for Venicians from all walks of life, Open Temple’s Hanukkah on the Canals Parade is a celebration not to be missed. With a procession of decorated boats sailing through the Venice Canals in a regatta, live music, latkes and more, this party is all about sharing joy with the Venice community.  

The origins of this celebration are almost as cool as the event itself. Dr. Joel and Rabbi Lori Shapiro of Open Temple had their first date on December 13, 2009; the date ended with Joel bringing Lori to the canals for the annual holiday parade.  While driving her home as the parade was flowing below Carroll Canal, Joel rolled down the window announcing “Merry Hanukkah, Ho, Ho, Ho!”

That first date led to another and within two years, the rabbi and the doctor married and were hosting their own party in the home Joel has lived in since the 1980s. Dr. Joel (as he is affectionately known), is the creator/owner of Electric Lodge. And when Rabbi Lori (also, affectionately known as), married Joel and moved into the canals, she left her job as the campus rabbi of USC to see if she could organize a community for 21st-century Judaism in Venice.  Open Temple is the fruition of that effort.  

In its third year, Open Temple provides an “Open door for all to go on their ‘Jew-ish’ Soul Journey.”  It caters to the Jewishly curious and and is housed in Open Temple House on Electric Lodge Campus.  Their Third Friday Shabbat, Arts 36 Hebrew School of the Arts and High Holidays have received national attention for their innovative yet traditional new spin on Jewish ritual space, and the Hanukkah on the Canal Parade is no different. 

“Hanukkah on the Canal Parade is our gift back to the community,” Rabbi Lori said.  “As Venice is a conduit for innovation and art, our Hanukkah party invites everyone to pick up a paintbrush, decorate a canoe and then get into the water with the Jew Crew to experience the magic and wonder of Venice.  Open Temple offers this annual event for all of Venice as a way of saying ‘let’s keep dreaming together, creating together, and celebrating together as a community.’  As a core value of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah is, in Aramaic persumay hamitzvah’ – which literally means ‘publicize the mitzvah’, in the colloquial converts to the sharing of joy, soulfulness, creativity and light with others.” 

A family proceeds with the regatta in their rowboat.

There will be crafts, boat decorating, a boat launch, donuts, hot cider, a dreidel spin off, a live band and more. 

“And it’s all free, as it is our way of saying ‘Thank You, Venice,'” Rabbi Lori said. 

For more details, visit opentemple.org/events-and-happenings/hanukkah-canals-parade/