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Jewish Faithful In Greenwich Prepare For The 'Festival of Lights'

Children from Congregation Shir Ami enjoy Chanukah Live! last year.
Children from Congregation Shir Ami enjoy Chanukah Live! last year. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — The lights of Hanukkah — like Christmas — come at the most needed time of year.

“It’s not an accident that both holidays come at the same time because both have light as a central theme,” Rabbi Vicki Axe of Congregation Shir Ami in Greenwich told the Daily Voice. “Most religions have some holiday ritual with light as a symbol because it’s the darkest time of the year.”

Jews from across Fairfield County — and the world — are preparing for the observance of Hanukkah, which begins the evening of Sunday, Dec. 6, and concludes the evening of Dec. 14.

Known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah marks the the victory of the ancient Israelites over the Syrian Greek army and the rededication of the Holy Temple.

Following the victory, the Israelites needed oil to light the temple’s menorah. While they thought the oil would only last one day, the oil lasted for an unexpected eight days. The surprise was known as one of the Hanukkah miracles. Because of the extra light, the Israelites were able to keep the menorah in the temple lit until they could produce new oil.

In modern times, Jewish faithful celebrate the holiday by lighting a menorah — a candelabra — each night of the eight-night holiday.

Axe said she has fond memories of lighting the menorah with her family. She remembers seeing the light reflected in their eyes. With her adult children grown, “it’s (now) about celebrating with my congregational family.”

At traditional weekly Shabbat services, Axe plans to give a nod to the holiday by talking about Hanukkah themes. She also plans to sing one or two Hanukkah songs.

Celebrations are also planned for children at the temple’s religious school. The students plan to eat Sufganiyah, jelly doughnuts that are traditional to the holiday.

Like latkes, the potato pancakes that are traditionally served during Hanukkah meals, the doughnuts are fried in oil to commemorate the miracle at the temple.

As a congregation, Axe plans to celebrate with a potluck dinner and service known has Chanukah Live! The energetic event, which typically draws about 100 congregants, features the Shir Ami choir and a “rockin’ band.”

Hanukkah celebrations are not limited to houses of prayer. A menorah lighting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m. at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk.

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