Waxhaw hosted its 4th annual Menorah Lighting on Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 celebrating Chanukah. Hosted by Rabbi Yisrael Levin and the Ballantine Jewish Center, this annual gathering brought friends, neighbors, and various faiths together to celebrate the Festival of Lights. The event started at 5 pm with crafts for kids before a welcome speech from Town of Waxhaw Mayor, Stephen Maher. Mayor Maher said, “Our core value is community and connections and this brings out the special connection we have with those of all faiths and brings out the diversity that we represent in Waxhaw today.” He then handed of the microphone to Rabbi Levin who delivered a short sermon about how heartwarming it is to bring the light of Chanukah to the town of Waxhaw. After the lighting, hot drinks, potato latke, and donuts were served.
Chanukah or Hanukkah is Hebrew for “dedication.” In 2018, it began on Sunday Decmeber 2nd and continued through Monday December 10th. This eight day “Festival of Lights” is celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and fried foods. This holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the larger Syrian army. It also celebrates the miracle that happened during this time, where just a day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in the rededicated Temple in Jerusalem to remain lit for eight days. “Since the Chanukah miracle involved oil, it is customary to eat foods fried in oil. The Eastern-European classic is the potato latke (pancake) garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and the reigning Israeli favorite is the jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut).” There was also the opportunity for kids to play with dreidels and gelt. “On Chanukah, it is customary to play with a “dreidel” (a four-sided spinning top bearing the Hebrew letters, nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, “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. The tradition is actually to give Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children. In addition to rewarding positive behavior and devotion to Torah study, the cash gifts give the children the opportunity to give tzedakah (charity). This has also spawned the phenomenon of foil-covered “chocolate gelt.””
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