While the previous First Friday dinners have been successful, Temple Israel is expecting an even bigger crowd for its annual Chanukah service and traditional holiday meal.

“With Chanukah falling early on the calendar this year, it overlaps with our December First Friday service and meal, on the 7th, and instead of postponing one of the services, we decided to combine them,” Program Director Wendy Goldberg said. “Yes, technically Chanukah begins the night of Saturday, December 8, but why wait to celebrate? We can call it an Erev Chanukah dinner.”

The evening will begin with snacks and candle lighting at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby, followed by the service at 6 p.m. in the sanctuary. Temple Israel’s 4th grade Religious School students will participate in the service and lead the blessings before dinner.

Temple Israel will also be offering a Tot Shabbat service for families with children ages five and under. The children will celebrate Shabbat and Chanukah with songs, dancing and a short story told by the clergy.

Dinner will be a traditional Chanukah spread of brisket, vegetables, homemade latkes, applesauce and dessert. Families are asked to bring menorahs to set on the tables.

Temple Israel First Fridays are sponsored by Bob and Elly Gordman, Andie Gordman and Dan Fitzgerald, and Lindsey Thomas, in memory of Brandon Thomas. There is no charge to attend, but reservations are required. Members are asked to contact Temple Israel at 402-556-6536 or email RSVP@templeisraelomaha.com.

Temple Israel is also collecting children’s winter clothing to donate to those in need. Bring your donation of new or gently used winter hats, gloves, warm socks, scarves and winter coats to Temple Israel.

And that’s not all. In addition to the First Friday/Chanukah service, Temple Israel is offering more ways to celebrate the Festival of Lights with a latke cooking contest.

Whether you’re a great latke chef, or you just like to eat them, Temple Israel invites one and all to its First Annual Latke Cook-Off on Sunday, December 9. Entrants are asked to arrive at Temple Israel at 10:30 a.m. to prepare their already-cooked latkes.

“Due to space limitations, we’re asking those who want to participate to cook their latkes at home and then bring them to Temple where we can warm them up in our ovens,” Goldberg said. “Next year, in our new building, we’ll have a larger kitchen area where everyone can make their latkes on site.”

Latkes will be judged in three categories from 11 a.m. to noon: Kids’ Choice, People’s Choice and Most Unusual/Creative Recipe. The winner will take home the coveted Temple Israel Golden Spatula award.

Latke chefs who wish to vie for the Golden Spatula are asked to contact Wendy Goldberg at wgoldberg@templeisraelomaha.com to enter.