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How COVID-19 Changed One Family's Hanukkah Plans

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Thursday evening marks the beginning of Hanukkah, but the pandemic is forcing many people to rethink their holiday plans.

For Saul Blinkoff, his wife, and four kids, Hanukkah is about family. "We look forward to Hanukkah all year. The kids count down the days," he says.

But the usual big family gatherings are just too risky during a pandemic. Blinkoff says they'll still gather with family from across the country, but it will be online this year. "Thank God for Zoom, we Zoom almost every day with them, we will find Zoom opportunities to light our menorahs while our family is lighting their menorahs too, and we'll sing with them," he says.

Jewish families nationwide are finding ways to keep Hanukkah traditions in a very untraditional year.

"We're still doing it. We're still making it happen," says Jason Leivenberg from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He says the group has organized an eight-day Hanukkah festival called Infinite Light, and it's all virtual.

"Just because we can't gather together and light the candles doesn't mean that you can't have a million Zoom cameras up, or FaceTimes up, and light them all together with your family."

Leivenberg says during this difficult year, the joy and togetherness of the holiday are badly needed. "The ancient history of Hanukkah is all about resilience," he says.

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The Blinkoffs are showing resilience by changing their typical plans to sing at a nursing home. "This year, unfortunately, we won't be able to go to a nursing home, but we will be investigating how we can find Zoom opportunities so our kids can sing again for people that might feel isolated," Blinkoff says.

The family is trying to share the message of Hanukkah at a time when that message is more important than ever.

This year, some synagogues are planning to remain closed during Hanukkah, encouraging families to celebrate safely at home.

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