Hanukkah 2021 Night 8: Greater SA Community

December 2021

This Hanukkah we are taking a moment to shine a light on the resilience of our community throughout this past year. Tonight, we light the last candle of the hanukkiah and read how our community brought light and hope to the broader San Antonio community.


San Antonio faced a severe winter storm bringing record cold temperatures and significant amounts of snow and ice in February. Many throughout the city, hit with power outages and with no way to grocery stores, were left hungry. Temple Beth-El, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, responded by holding a free food distribution event. Fresh produce, water, non-perishables, toiletries, and other items were given to anyone who needed them. After posting in Facebook groups, we had turnout from all over a very grateful San Antonio.

According to an American Psychological Association survey, 78 percent of people surveyed said the coronavirus pandemic was a significant source of stress in their lives. As a resource of mental wellness, Jewish Family Service (JFS) spent the year providing free mental health education for more than 3,800 people. JFS counselors and leadership presented on topics such as anxiety during the pandemic, resiliency, anger management, self-care, and more. JFS also partnered with the National Council of Jewish Women of San Antonio while presenting on topics related to self-care and social media impacts on mental health.


Congregation Shalom has been a light to the Jewish community by providing San Antonio with a new, unique and vibrant Reform experience. Founded with just over 30 families in 2021, the congregation offers a warm, participatory atmosphere with numerous opportunities to embrace Jewish life. Led by newly ordained rabbi and veteran Jewish educator Lisa Goldstein, Congregation Shalom has already celebrated three b’nai mitzvah, held weekly Shabbat services, and celebrated every Jewish holiday to date through Zoom and YouTube. The congregation also offers Kesher Shalom, our innovative education classes. Using a town-hall meeting structure, all members have full opportunity to participate in governance. Congregation Shalom is a small shul with a big heart and full dedication to a meaningful Reform Jewish life.


The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio (JCRC) is our bridge to the broader San Antonio community. As of the end of April 2021, almost 3500 San Antonians had died due to COVID-19. The JCRC joined organizations across the community in sponsoring Deep in Our Hearts, A Memorial to San Antonio Lives Lost due to COVID-19. The memorial consisted of 3,500 red coroplast heart shapes (12”x13”) attached to the chain link fencing at the corner of W. Market and S. Alamo. The memorial provided a visual remembrance of our fellow San Antonians lost and a physical location for people to remember, mourn and heal. Family members of those who have died were invited to dedicate a heart to their loved one by writing their name on the heart and attaching photos, stories, or prayers. Additionally, the JCRC joined with the interfaith community of San Antonio on October 5 to have an important conversation on anti-racism. The event featured over 30 oil-on-linen portraits of Black men ages 10 to 90 painted by San Antonio artist Lionel Sosa. Attendees listened as the subjects of the portraits spoke about their stories first-hand. The purpose of this extraordinary exhibit was to shine a light on today’s reality and to learn what it is like to be a Black man or boy in San Antonio. The discussion centered around how we all can have a better understanding of each other as a community.


Mina Lopez and Lisa Epstein at the Heart Memorial for victims of COVID

Congregation Agudas Achim had a wonderful Welcome Back Weekend planned for the beginning of August. Unfortunately, due to the resurgence of COVID cases in our community, many exciting programs and events had to be indefinitely postponed, apart from the Clergy Installation. The bright light in all of this, is the community came together to support and welcome our new Clergy, Rabbi Sharon Cohen and Cantor Ken Cohen, and Executive Director, Rabbi Rikki Arad. A dream in the making for several years, the Kavy Pavili on is now completed. We know that we will be using it for so many educational and social events for celebrations of B’nai Mitzvot, weddings, Havdalah services, and much more.