By Haley Brownman and Sophie Bamford , CNN Written by
Predictably, the local first-aid volunteers at the South Africa Center in Miami Beach arrived late to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. To their relief, those left behind doused a room with water and towels before attending to the wounded.
They also had some initial reservations about the newly renamed Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Activities Center’s Hanukkah party.
But when their concerns were met with confusion from those coming in to the event, they decided to offer the attendees their expertise.
Not too many people came, so the volunteers started munching on the tehina, a light latke-like preparation. No one complained.
For the past eight years, Miami Beach’s South Florida Jewish Federation has sponsored a Hanukkah celebration, bringing together 350 people to share Jewish and fun food and festivities.
This year, the annual celebration had even higher ambitions. According to Head of Marketing Kate Cohen, the event organizers “decided to go big. We sold out.”
The event, now an annual two-hour event, featured 350 lucky participants who shared their holiday enthusiasm with some of Miami’s most notable residents. In the grand tradition of a 9th commandment, the guests were forbidden from crossing a forbidden path, which meant the event’s original Hanukkah treats of cinnamon and icing sugar and Israeli fried chicken, aka “mushkie” had to go.
Instead, the event featured champagne, donuts, chocolate-covered apples, 20 different kinds of jelly doughnuts, traditional latkes, four types of gelt (Globus tokens) and three kinds of gefilte fish.
And to top it all off, at a special after party, the event’s director, Josh Eisenstadt, would invite several of Miami’s drag queens to perform. He has no title for the event, and does not permit official press, but they are known to call it “kink.”
One such artist who made an appearance was Rita Vegas, a 40-year-old androgynous performer who took the stage and started the crowd swaying with her music.
She went on to perform in front of towering portrait of Winston Churchill, a drag version of Adolf Hitler, and a drag version of the makeup brand MAC, plus other “Kinky-dinki-we-we,” like the American rapper Juicy J.
It was perhaps the night’s most unconventional beginning.
“Maybe it was a reflection of where we are in the world,” said Eisenstadt, the event’s director. “These people are beautiful. They embrace what they are.”