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Hanukkah events include menorah lightings

Less a religious celebration and more an historical holiday, eight days of Hanukkah festivities begin Tuesday, Dec. 12. It recognizes the success of the Maccabean Revolt which freed the Jews from their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the second century B.C.

Ashland is the only community in the Rogue Valley with Jewish centers of worship and culture. Two synagogues and a Jewish center have members and visitors from all parts of Jackson County and beyond, including Grants Pass and Northern California.

Light, music and food are traditions celebrated during Hanukkah. The centerpiece is the menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days the temple lantern blazed, according to legend after the Maccabean Revolt. The ninth is a “helper” candle, used to light the others. Families light one candle a day during Hanukkah.

Following are some of the events and activities planned by local organizations.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon

Children and families put on workers’ aprons and made their own wooden menorahs Sunday at Home Depot in Phoenix.

The store partnered with Chabad for the event. Besides taking home menorahs, kids received their own aprons and treats, too.

“We want each child to experience the holiday in a hands-on way,” said Faigy Zwiebel, event coordinator and wife of Rabbi Avi Zwiebel. They will be able to light their menorahs with their families during the eight days of Hanukkah.

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the first day of Hanukkah, the Chabad Center will conduct a menorah-lighting ceremony at the Ashland Plaza at 5:30 p.m. It will be a festive affair with doughnuts and latkes for sale, live music, dreidels and a gift shop.

The center will conduct its first menorah-lighting ceremony in downtown Medford at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13, at Vogel Plaza on Central Ave.

Zweibel said she is looking forward to the opening of the center’s pop-up New York Jewish deli, for three days only — Thursday, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 14, 17 and 18, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Proceeds support the center’s work. It has become a Hanukkah tradition at the center.

“We’ll have authentic pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, brisket and matzo ball soup. Everything is from New York, even the pickles,” she said. People can dine inside at deli style tables or order food to go.

For more information, call the center at 541-482-2778.

Temple Emek Shalom

There will be a Hanukkah party at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, at Temple Emek Shalom, 1800 E. Main St., Ashland, with a dinner, activities and music.

“We’ll be lighting the candles and having a vegetarian potluck,” said Rabbi Julie Benioff, who shares rabbinical duties with Rabbi Joshua Boettiger.

It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah but also Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which begins Friday evening at sunset and ends Saturday night.

The temple will provide latkes for the dinner and invites people to bring side dishes.

“We’ll also have crafts, activities and songs,” Benioff said.

The point of lighting candles is so they will be seen by the outside, according to Benioff. It has its origins in Jerusalem where, according to legend, Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors.

“However, the story of the lights is not to glorify war,” said Benioff, “but to glorify God.”

For more information, call the synagogue at 541-488-2909.

Havurah Shir Hadash

The big event at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland, is Hanukkah Fest, the Jewish Festival of Light. It will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, with a traditional meal of potato pancakes (latkes) served with sour cream, applesauce, salads and side dishes.

“We’ll have crafts for the children, play dreidel games and have a community candle-lighting,” said Ayala Zonnenschein, executive director. “We’re inviting people to bring their menorahs for the ceremony,” she said.

Other activities will include singing of the blessing, story telling by author Debra Zaslow, SOU professor and wife of Rabbi David Zaslow, and a sing-along led by David and Cyrise Beatty Schachter, featuring songs in both Hebrew and English.

The Hanukkah gift shop will be open, and gift certificates from local restaurants and wineries will be auctioned.

For more information, call the synagogue at 541-488-7716.

— Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland.