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River Jewish Community Celebrates Hanukkah

Friday, December 7th, 2012 | Posted by | no responses


The Russian River Jewish Community will be holding their annual Hanukkah celebration at Monte Rio Community Center beginning at 5 P.M. on Thursday, December 13.
There will be exuberant dancing, industrial-strength latkes (aka potato pancakes), the lighting of candles held by  diverse and often artistically designed menorahs, more dancing, and a potluck feast followed by additional dancing designed to burn a few of the calories gained during the potluck feast.

Music will be furnished by the ubiquitous Sonia Tubridy’s Jubilee Klezmer Ensemble, and everyone who would enjoy an evening of terrific music, delicious food and lots of dancing, is welcome.
Come help light up the Winter season with a potluck dish and drinks to share, Chanukia and candles, decorations and dreidles.
Guests are encouraged to bring their own plates/ utensils. There will be paper goods available.

The cost is $10 for members of R.R.J.C. and $15 for non-members. Family rates are available, and additional information is available at 869-3273.
The Monte Rio community center is at 20488 Hwy 116, near the Rio Theater and lots of free parking is available.
The community center is wheelchair accessible.
RRJC is looking for volunteers to fry latkes, decorate at 4:00 PM and assist with cleanup.
The group also needs sponsors to help underwrite Jubilee Klezmer and the rental fee.

About The Holiday

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the festival of lights, is an eight day festival beginning in the month of Kislev, on its 25th day.
Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance, but because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews (and even many assimilated Jews) think of this holiday as the “Jewish Christmas”.  Chiefly because of pressure applied by inquiring children who wanted to know why they couldn’t have a tree or expect presents like their Gentile neighbors, American Jews gradually adopted many Christmas customs such as gift-giving and cheerily decorating the household.   For those who appreciate irony, it’s endlessly fascinating that Hanukkah, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on the Jewish calendar.


The Story
The story of Hanukkah begins during the reign of Alexander the Great, the conqueror of Syria, Egypt and Palestine, who allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks. More than a century later, Antiochus IV,  in control of the region, began to oppress the Jews severely, placing in the Temple a Hellenistic priest,  massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of non-kosher animals such as pigs, on the altar. Several groups opposed Antiochus, including one led by a nationalistic group led by Judah Maccabee, which joined forces in a revolt against the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.

At the time of the rededication, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks, and  oil was needed for the candelabrum (menorah) in the Temple, and was supposed to burn throughout the night every night, for eight days. Although there was only enough oil to burn for one day,  it burned for eight days, allowing enough time  to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate this miracle. And so the holiday commemorates the miracle of the oil, and not the success of the revolt.
The only religious observance related to the holiday is the lighting of candles. The candles are arranged in a candelabrum called a menorah (or sometimes called a Hanukkiah) which holds nine candles: one for each night, plus a shammus (servant) at a different height.

Greek dreidel

After reciting the blessings, the first candle is then lit using the shamus candle, which is placed in its holder. Candles can be lit any time after dark but before midnight, and are normally allowed to burn out on their own after a minimum of 1/2 hour. Candles are lit from left to right (because you pay honor to the newer thing first). On the eighth night, all nine candles (the 8 Hanukkah candles and the shammus) are lit.
It is traditional to eat fried foods on Hanukkah, and  because of the significance of oil to the holiday,  this usually includes latkes (potato pancakes).


Along with giving children gifts (lest they consider a revolt of their own), another of the traditions includes spinning a four-sided top, (each displaying a Hebrew letter),  known as a dreidel.  These letters stand for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”, a great miracle happened there, referring to the miracle of the oil.
A gambling game, its beginnings are explained by the fact that those Jews who wished to study Torah (banned during the time of Antiochus’ oppression),  would conceal their activity by playing dreidel whenever an official or inspector was within sight.

When: 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, December 13

Where: Monte Rio Community Center (aka  the Koret Club), Monte Rio


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