IJSS Celebrates Chanukah!

In October, Institute for Judaic Services and Studies (IJSS) members observed Shabbat services via Zoom. Rabbi Harari officiated, and Sarah Boltt and David Mancini-Conway accompanied the cantorial soloist. Hopefully, this will be the last Zoom service, as we plan to meet in person for Chanukah in December. Our previous Zoom services for the High Holy Days did not allow us to see each other. At this Shabbat service, we could, and it was a time of smiles and happiness as the rabbi and congregants were finally able to see and greet each other. A prayer was set to music composed by Sarah Boltt, a pleasant surprise and beautiful melody.

So, what is Chanukah, anyway?

Chanukah is the Jewish, eight-day festival of lights, celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting (candle lighting). Chanukah means “dedication” and is named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in the second century BCE. Chanukah 2021 runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6.

The story begins when the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian Greeks, who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of following Judaism. Against all odds, a small band of faithful and poorly armed Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, defeated a mighty army, drove the Greeks from the land, and reclaimed and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

When they went to light the temple’s menorah (the candelabrum), they found a single cruse of olive oil. Miraculously, they lit the menorah, and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. Because of this miracle, the sages began the festival of Chanukah. For eight nights, a menorah is lit in every household.

Customs include eating foods fried in oil; potato latkes (pancakes) and jelly doughnuts are favorites. A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei, and shin, an acronym for “a great miracle happened there.” The game is usually played for a pot of coins, nuts, or other stuff, which is won or lost based on which letter the dreidel lands when it is spun.

Chanukah gifts are given. A favorite is gelt, money for children. A special treat is chocolate gelt (chocolate in the form of coins). It is a holiday of celebration and happiness.

IJSS is a small, active, and welcoming congregation. Our members are friends, and we are a close community. If you have questions or wish to join our congregation, please feel free to contact Joan Elder at 520-360-1478 or Seth Eisner at 520-818-6340 for information.

IJSS welcomes volunteers. In the past, many of us have volunteered in our Jewish communities. We hope that you will think of us now and in the future.

Happy Chanukah to all!