Families invited to Hanukah event

The Jewish holiday of Hanukah began this week, and according to Rabbi Rachel Bearman at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, for most of Jewish history, it was regarded as a minor festival. In the last 150 years though, it has become increasingly popular and even central to the way Jewish families celebrate their religion.

“Hanukah celebrates the triumph of a small band of men who resisted the cruel rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus is said to have sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to desecrate the Temple and enforce a law that made Judaism illegal. When the holy Temple was rededicated to the Greek god Zeus, the head of the Maccabean family, Mattathias, and his son, Judah, led a revolt against the foreign rulers. Though they were vastly outnumbered, the Maccabean soldiers prevailed,” Ms. Bearman said.

Hanukah, which means “dedication,” is a celebration of the Temple’s rededication after the Maccabees’ victory. It is said after they defeated their enemies, the Maccabees entered the Temple and despaired because there was only a single jar of oil for the ner tamid, the eternal light. The oil they found should have been enough for only a single day, but miraculously, it lasted for eight days, Ms. Bearman explained.

“Contemporary Jewish communities will remember this miracle and celebrate Hanukah by lighting one candle each night until, on the eighth night, our menorahs will glow with the light of all eight candles plus oneshamash, helper candle,” Ms. Bearman said.

Families will celebrate with traditional foods — potato latkes and cheese blintzes — and by playing games and exchanging gifts. For many it is also about continuing the traditions passed on from generation to generation.

Temple B’nai Chaim is participating in the Ner Shel Tzedakah (Candle of Righteousness) Project, where the sixth night of Hanukah is devoted to learning about poverty. The congregation will celebrate by coming together to light the Hanukah lights on Friday, Dec. 19. This is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information, call Temple B’nai Chaim, 82 Portland Avenue, Georgetown, at 203-544-8695.