Brooklyn, New York
Yes, you read that correctly. It is not a mistake. You did not imagine it. There is an actual organization called Major League Dreidel; and they do have an annual Dreidel competition. It is the Dreidelpolluza of Hanukkah-related non-sporting events. And though it is only a few years old, I’m guessing that somehow, in the foreseeable future, it is destined to become one of those inexplicably popular things that will grow into a massive annual event, replete with corporate sponsorship.
The game of dreidel is a tradition that can be traced to the old ghettos of Eastern Europe, though an origination date is difficult to pin down. At first it was little more than a toy top for children to play with. But at some point someone engraved one with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin, an acronym which roughly translates to “A Great Miracle Happened There”. This was a reference to Jewish reconquest of the Temple Mount during the Maccabean Revolt and the subsequent miracle of the lights. The dreidel became indelibly tied to the Hanukkah holiday, a tradition which is maintained to the present day.
However, tradition though it is, the toy/game of dreidel has not aged well, and has long since fallen behind the times. That is, until Major League Dreidel was founded in New York City in 2007. This organization, dedicated to restoring the dreidel to its place of holiday honor, lives by its motto, “No Gelt, No Glory” (for real). This celebration, held annually in December, is sort of a festival of all things Jewish, from traditional Hannukah music played by live bands to the free-flowing He-brew beer. The competition itself is unofficial, and there is as yet no governing authority for the burgeoning sport. So anyone can show up and take a spin at becoming a world champion.
The Major League Dreidel competition takes place over several nights throughout Hannukah, with the finals taking place on or close to the eighth night. As it is still a growing work in progress, there may be changes in times and venues from year to year. In 2010 it was held at the Knitting Factory, a bar in Brooklyn. Web: www.majorleaguedreidel.com (official website of MLD).