Celebrate Hanukkah Sonoma-Style with Helicopter Gelt Drops and Meyer Lemon Sufganiyot

Sonoma County will celebrate the Jewish Festival of Lights with a variety of traditional — and not so traditional — events and culinary treats. Here's what's in store.

Hanukkah, The Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on Thursday, Dec. 7. This year, there are a variety of ways to take part in the celebration and observance of the holiday in Sonoma County. From events hosted by local Jewish congregations to special meals from popular restaurants and bakeries, the area is replete with traditional — and not so traditional — Hanukkah events and culinary treats.

On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jewish families gather around the menorah to recite a special blessing and light another candle on the nine branch candelabrum until all candles are aglow on the last night of the holiday (eight candles for each night, as well as a shamash candle, used to light the other candles).

Latkes (fried potato pancakes) with sour cream and applesauce are traditionally enjoyed during Hanukkah, as well as sufganiyot, a deep-fried jam or custard doughnut topped with powdered sugar. Family and friends exchange presents during this time and enjoy playing dreidel for gelt (usually chocolate coins covered in gold foil).

Here’s how to celebrate the holiday Sonoma-style.

Hanukkah Events

The Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma

Chanukah Party Limo: Celebrations will get off to a festive start for students on Thursday, Dec. 7 with a Chanukah Party Limo taking 6th to 12th graders to San Francisco in style. Rolling to the beat of Hanukkah music, the limo leaves Petaluma at 3:30 p.m. and arrives in Union Square at 4:45 p.m. for the 48th lighting and celebration at the Bill Graham Menorah, “the first giant public menorah outside of Israel.” $25 per student. Registration is required by Sunday, Dec. 3. jewishpetaluma.com/partylimo

Chanukah Celebration with Helicopter Gelt Drop: The Chabad Jewish Center says it plans to take its 9th annual Chanukah Celebration at the Petaluma Fairgrounds to “new heights” with this year’s Helicopter Gelt Drop. The event also includes a Grand Menorah Lighting with community leaders and guests, LED and fire performance, jelly doughnuts, hot latkes, live DJ Chanukah music, the “world’s biggest dreidel,” an interactive menorah game, a grand raffle and Chanukah crafts. 4:30-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec 10. Free with RSVP at jewishpetaluma.com/chanukahcelebration, 707-559-8585.

Chanukah Shoppe: Those interested in getting ready for the holiday can visit The Chanukah Shoppe pop-up store in downtown Petaluma where candles, menorahs, dreidels, chocolate gelt, gift items, decorations and toys will be available for purchase. 205 Keller St., Suite 101, Petaluma. For hours and questions, call 707-559-8585.

Among the other Hanukkah events sponsored by Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma are a menorah workshop for kids (Dec. 3), a Resin + Rosé women’s social (Dec. 4), as well as a Chanukah Shabbat Dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15 ($25 for adults, $15 for children).

Rabbi Dovid Bush, of Chabad Jewish Center, lights the first candle of the Grand Menorah, at the 5th Annual Chanukah at the River celebration presented by Chabad Jewish Center on Sunday, December 22, 2019, in Petaluma, California. (Photo by Darryl Bush / For The Press Democrat)
Rabbi Dovid Bush of Chabad Jewish Center lights the first candle of the Grand Menorah at the 5th Annual Chanukah at the River celebration on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 in Petaluma. (Darryl Bush / For The Press Democrat)
B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma 

B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma is hosting its “Around the World in Eight Days” event from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15. It will include latkes from around the world, sufganiyot, cocktails, mocktails and “dreidels made of everything but clay.” 740 Western Ave., Petaluma. Entrance fees are $36 for adults, $72 for families and free for kids, but no one will be “turned away due to lack of funds.” Space is limited, RSVP at bnaiisrael.net.

Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati

Ner Shalom in Cotati will host a Chanukah Party from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 that includes games and activities for families, singalong, stories, a dinner of salmon and latkes, and candle lighting. The congregation encourages guests to bring their own menorah to the party. 85 La Plaza Cotati. nershalom.org

The Joseph Weingarten Chabad Jewish Center in Santa Rosa

This year’s Chanukah Festival begins 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa and will include a live band, Jeremy the Juggler, a Grand Menorah lighting, doughnuts, latkes, crafts, prizes and more. The Healdsburg Chanukah Celebration begins 5 p.m. on Dec 14 at at Oakville Grocery (7856 St. Helena Highway). 707-577-0277, jewishsonoma.com.

The Joseph Weingarten Chabad Jewish Center will also host a Cantorial Shabbat with cantor Chaim Freund followed by a “deluxe dinner” at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. ($25 for adults, $10 for children). At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, Cantorial Shabbos and Chanukah Services will be followed by lunch (RSVP at JewishSonoma.com/Cantor). At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, there will be a Kids Chanukah Lego Land event that promises on its poster that participants can “go home with your very own light up Menorah set.”

Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa

Shomrei Torah is hosting a tisch-style Shabbat Hanukkah Party 6:15 – 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8 that will include candle lighting, latkes, doughnuts, dreidels and music. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own menorah with candles and wear their “Hanukkah gear.” Make reservations at cstsr.org ($18 for members, $22 for non-members, kids 13 and under free). 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa.

Congregation Beth Ami of Santa Rosa

Beth Ami will be putting on two events during the holiday: a takeout latke fundraiser and a Chanukah Latke Dinner. As part of the fundraiser, latkes will be sold in packages of 10 for $15 with a portion of the money raised going to Magen David Adom (first responders of Israel). Orders must be received by Monday, Dec. 4 and the latkes can be picked up Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 8.

The Chanukah Latke Dinner will begin 4 p.m. on Dec. 10 and includes card and board games, a short service and candle lighting, a latke and salad dinner, as well as music and singing. The event is free, but donations are accepted. RSVP for the dinner is required by Dec 6. 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. bethamisr.org

Congregation Shir Shalom in Sonoma

Featuring a Chinese buffet dinner and a showing of the movie Yentl (starring Barbra Streisand), Shir Shalom’s Hanukkah Party also includes the lighting of menorahs in Burlingame Hall. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the event begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 ($25 for adults, free for children 12 and under). RSVP online or by making a payment by check. The Congregation will also hold a Last Night Community Menorah Lighting with latkes, hot chocolate and lively songs in front of Burlingame Hall 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14. 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma. shir-shalom.org

Wildberry Jam Bismark sufganiyot from Johnny Doughnuts in Santa Rosa. (Johnny Doughnuts)
Wildberry Jam Bismark sufganiyot from Johnny Doughnuts in Santa Rosa. (Johnny Doughnuts)

Hanukkah Food Specials

Grossman’s Noshery & Bar

This Jewish-style restaurant and deli in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square will offer a takeout brisket dinner for two ($99) that includes sweet and sour braised brisket with horseradish cream; four potato leek latkes; spinach salad with dates, feta and pistachios; pomegranate molasses roasted carrots; braided challah loaf and two sufganiyot. Orders must be received by Dec. 3; pickup Dec. 7-14.

Grossman’s will also have a variety of a la carte items for the holiday, such as Loaded Knish ($17) with caramelized onions, farmers cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut and gruyere cheese; Smoked and Pickled Fish Board ($26) with lox, kippered salmon, smoked salmon rillette, pickled herring, mackerel and matzoh crackers; as well as baked goods, such as a half loaf of chocolate or cinnamon babka ($10) and chocolate-orange or brown sugar-almond Rugelach ($2.50).

308 1/2 Wilson St., Santa Rosa. 707-595-7707, grossmanssr.com

Zoftig Eatery

Zoftig Eatery in Santa Rosa is making latkes and cinnamon-walnut rugelach for Hanukkah that will be available for pickup Thursday, Dec. 7 and Friday, Dec. 8. The latkes with applesauce and sour cream are $24 for half a dozen and $45 for a dozen. The cinnamon-walnut rugelach are $10 for half a dozen and $18 for a dozen. 57 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa. 707-521-9554. Online orders can be placed at zoftigeatery.com.

Marla Bakery

Marla Bakery, which recently opened a new location in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, will be offering a blue and gold Sufganiyot Box ($15) with four of the Hanukkah treats.

The sufganiyot come in two flavors — Meyer lemon cream and dulce de leche cream — and will only be available for pickup Dec. 7 through Dec. 10 at the cafe at 208 Davis St. in Santa Rosa, as well as at the Saturday Healdsburg Farmers Market and the Sunday Sebastopol Farmers Market.

Marla will also be selling its sufganiyot at the 22nd Annual Town of Windsor Holiday Celebration on the Windsor Town Green 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7. The event includes a menorah lighting, youth performances and fun activities for kids.

208 Davis St., Santa Rosa. 707-852-4098, marlabakery.com

Johnny Doughnuts

Johnny Doughnuts is selling a Hanukkah Gift Box ($50) that includes 12 Mini Wildberry Bismarks dusted in sugar and wrapped in fall twine. The box is available from Dec. 7 to Dec. 15 and orders must be placed at least two days in advance. 1200 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707-308-4836, johnnydoughnuts.com

Penngrove Market

Penngrove Market is offering a Hanukkah Dinner for four ($95) that will be hot, ready to eat and available for pickup 4-6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. It will include beef brisket, potato vegetable latkes, matzoh ball soup and a green salad with honey-lemon dressing. Make advance reservations at the market or by calling 707-753-4974. 10070 Main St., Penngrove. 707-753-4974, penngrovemarket.com

Ethel’s Delicatessen

In Petaluma, Ethel’s Delicatessen is offering latkes, golden raisin challah and handmade milk chocolate gelt.

Four hot organic latkes ($10) served with organic sour cream (organic local applesauce is also available as an add-on) will be available for dining in, pickup and delivery through Dec. 17. (Larger orders for catering can also be preordered by emailing catering@ethelsbagels.com.)

Preorders can be placed for Ethel’s organic, round, braided golden raisin challah ($16), available from Friday, Dec. 8 to Sunday, Dec. 10.

The handmade milk chocolate gelt, made by Zingermans in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is available throughout Hanukkah for $8.99.

1000 Clegg Court, Petaluma. 707-231-1155. ethelsbagels.com

Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts

Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts in Sonoma will be selling powdered sugar and raspberry jam mini doughnuts for Hanukkah (gluten-free versions available). They also will have “Hanukkah sprinkles” for the doughnuts. Customers can purchase a dozen mini doughnuts or Harvey’s famous “single” — a homemade doughnut that comes in a box and can be given as a gift. For more information, visit harveysdonuts.com or call 707-246-5928. Harvey’s Donut Bar, 414 First St. East, Sonoma; Harvey’s Gourmet Donuts & Catering, 19030 Railroad Ave., Sonoma.

A La Heart Kitchen 

A La Heart Kitchen in Forestville will have potato latkes with sour cream and applesauce ($12 for three latkes) and matzoh ball soup with roast chicken ($19 per quart) Thursday Dec. 7 through Saturday Dec. 9, and Wednesday Dec. 13 through Saturday Dec. 16. Order ahead via email alaheart@sonic.net. These food items will also be available in A La Heart’s grab-and-go case on a first-come, first-served basis on the same dates. All items are cold and to be heated a home. Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. 6490 Mirabel Road, Forestville. 707-527-7555, alaheart.com