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Spreading the Light of Hanukkah

Local synagogues host community events to celebrate the holiday, which takes place Dec. 8 through De

Posted: December 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Children playing dreidel at Temple Beth Ami Hanukkah celebrations last year.

 

Hanukkah, known as the Jewish festival of lights, is commonly known as a time to remember the ancient struggle for religious freedom and a time of community outreach.

Local synagogues in the Santa Clarita Valley prepare for the Hanukkah holiday, which begins Dec. 8 and lasts through Dec. 16.

Hanukkah in the SCV

Each year, the synagogues collaborate to host the Hanukkah Family Festival and menorah lighting at the Westfield Valencia Town Center. The event this year will be held on Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. and will include choir performances, traditional Hanukkah foods and family activities.

Among traditional Hanukkah gatherings the congregations also host other events celebrating the holiday. Celebrating the lighting of the fifth light Temple Beth Ami is holding Hanukkah story time at the recently opened Old Town Newhall Library. Congregation Beth Shalom begins the holiday with a Hanukkah boutique and will conduct daily menorah lightings each night at sundown featuring the giant menorah affixed to the top of their synagogue.

Chabad of SCV hosts two unique Hanukkah events this year. Instead of the annual Hanukkah on Ice, Chabad is holding Hanukkah family bowling. The event will offer hot latkes, Hanukkah activities, dreidel games and will feature a menorah fashioned from bowling pins. The synagogue will also host award winning comedian Robert Cait for Hanukkah comedy night.

Shining light

Hanukkah is traditionally not a major festival on the Jewish calendar, but has become highly celebrated over the years. A large component of the holiday is the idea of community.

“Now, we see the holiday as Jewish outreach,” said Rabbi Howard Siegel of Congregation Beth Shalom. “Many Jews have distanced themselves from Judaism. This is a way to reach out to people who are unaffiliated with synagogues so they will feel less threatened.”

It is viewed as a celebratory time for friends and family to come together and for the community to share in the joy.

“The holiday celebrates the resistance to assimilation and destruction of a tradition,” said Rabbi Blazer of Temple Beth Ami. “Now, it reminds us to stand up for what makes us unique and different, to keep our traditions and not become apathetic by not participating anymore.”

Initially, the holiday commemorated the victory over religious oppression. While many still celebrate those freedoms, it has become the most observed of Jewish holidays because of the simplicity it offers.

“It is a very simple holiday to observe,” said Siegel. “All you need to do is light a candle.”

Equally important to the spirit of Hanukkah is the metaphor of light. The significance of light plays a major role in the holiday. It is celebrated for eight nights as people from the Jewish community light a new candle on the menorah, or candelabra, each night until all eight lights are lit. The lighting symbolizes the fight against darkness by literally bringing more light into the world each night.

“We increase the light through the holiday and allow more light to shine in our homes and where ever the menorahs are lit,” Blazer said.

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