Special to the Star & Wave
The Washington Street Mall will soon be a little brighter with the illumination of the Hanukkah menorah.
Light up the Night is a Hanukkah event sponsored by Beth Judah Temple of Wildwood. It is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and is open to everyone. Visitors can join Rabbi Ron Isaacs and the Beth Judah community in front of City Centre, 421 Washington St.
The event is expected to be an uplifting Hanukkah celebration and will include the lighting of the menorah, fellowship, song and traditional holiday snacks of latkes and sufganiyot.
The menorah on the mall was built by Harry Hirsch, the original owner of the Montreal Beach Resort. The Montreal is now owned by Hirsch’s sons and grandsons.
“My father built the menorah thirty years ago, and we maintain and store it every year,” Larry Hirsch said. “It’s displayed outside City Centre, which is one of our properties.”
The current political atmosphere has seen a rise in anti-Semitism in the United States, including the shooting at a Pittsburgh Synagogue in October.
“I feel this event is about sharing traditions with everyone,” Larry Hirsch said. “If the results bring greater understanding and harmony, then we achieved our goal.”
The event was held last year for the first time in many years
“It’s really nice to have a time of recognition of the Jewish holidays, to have a bit of something that displays your beliefs and followings,” Hirsch said. “I think it is great and it allows everybody to appreciate and celebrate together.”
Isaacs will lead the service and sing Hanukkah songs. The event is open to everyone of all faiths.
“It’s a great community event that people come to just to celebrate and learn a little bit about Hanukkah, that they might not have known,” Hirsch said.
Isaacs has also led the Shabbat at the Shore event the last six years, which is put on during the summer by the Montreal and the Hirsch family.
Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration to commemorate the rededication during the second century B.C. of the second temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew.
According to legend, Jews had revolted against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. The Maccabees defeated their oppressors and returned to Jerusalem to liberate it and clean their temple. They dedicated their newly restored temple on the 25th day of Kislev, the Hebrew calendar, which is why Hanukkah typically falls during November or December.
The Maccabees went to light their menorah in celebration of dedication, but they only had enough oil for one night. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the menorah remained lit for eight days, the story goes.
Traditional Hanukkah food includes fare fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). An original Jewish custom was to give Hanukkah gelt (money) instead of presents. Gift giving at Hanukkah began in the 1920s, which has prompted many Christians to refer to it as the “Jewish Christmas.”
Hirsch’s favorite part of the service is eating latkes.
“Seriously, it’s an event that brings smiles to everyone’s’ faces,” he said.
A traditional Hanukkah game of dreidel is played with gelt (chocolate coins). A dreidel is a four-sided top with letters on each side, from the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter refers to an acronym of the phrase “a great miracle happened there,” or in Hebrew, “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham.” In Israel, ‘there’ is changed to ‘here,’ making the phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Po.”
Hanukkah beings this year at sunset on Sunday, Dec. 2 and ends sundown on Sunday, Dec. 9.
“My hope for the future of Jews and celebrations is that we enjoy them in harmony,” Hirsch said.