As Christians count down the days to their annual Christmas celebrations, Jews across Monroe County are in the midst of their eight-day Hanukkah celebrations.
Friday, Dec. 11 marked the beginning of Hanukkah 2009 in the Florida Keys, and the handful of synagogues in Monroe County each marked the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem with their own unique celebrations.
The Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier hosted a potluck celebration and the children entertained the congregation with a Hanukkah play.
Stuart Sax, Executive Vice President of Keys Jewish Community Center, admitted that of the holy days on the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah is one of the few that consists of joyous celebration.
“When we were kids, we got gifts for eight nights,” he remembered. “Our non-Jewish friends were always a bit jealous.”
Congregation B’nai Zion, South Florida’s oldest Jewish congregation, also hosted a festive Hanukkah celebration on Sunday, Dec. 13 in Key West.
The rededication of Hanukkah or “Festival of Lights” as it’s often referred stemmed from a series of events in Israel more than 2,200 years ago when the country was under the domination of a dictatorial Greco-Syrian king. Jews were told to worship Greek gods and to eat pork, both of which were forbidden practices for the faithful. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. They faced years of oppression, but through a grassroots uprising against the Syrian-Greek army, the Maccabees as they came to be known, celebrated a victorious battle over the repressive occupation. The Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate the city and clean it of the pagan temples built by the Syrian vandals. Judah, the leader of the Maccabees, and his followers, built a new alter and dedicated it on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in the year 3622 on the Hebrew calendar.
The Maccabees could only find enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but by a miracle, the light burned for eight days and eight nights until more oil could be refined. The most popular of Hanukkah dishes during celebratory feasts are prepared in oil to remind the faithful of the oil that miraculously burned for eight days.
CBZ Hanukkah Party
John Kreinces leads the Congregation B’nai Zion Hanukkah Singers.
Sarah Klitenick adds more Latkahs (potato pancakes) as CBZ members fill their plates.
CBZ gift shop
Mae McMahan, Joan Cushman and Annette Ring in the CBZ Gift Shop. CBZ Photos Courtesy of Sidney Wharton
Photo Courtesy of Sam Vinicur