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How Bermuda’s Jewish community will celebrate Chanukkah

Special celebration: a traditional Chanukkah menorah (Photograph supplied)

Sunday marks the start of the eight-day Jewish celebration of Chanukkah.

In Jewish tradition, the festivities begin at sunset on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which typically falls between November and December on the Gregorian calendar.

Jews will begin celebrating after the sun goes down on Sunday. This year Chanukkah overlaps with the Christmas season and will end after sunset on December 26.

This history of Chanukkah predates the birth of Christ and has been observed since the second century BCE.

It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. According to Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews had risen up against their Greeko-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.

When the Greek ruler Antiochus IV rose to power in the region of Judeo, present day Israel, he began to oppress the Jews, desecrating their temples and prohibiting the practice of their religion in 168 BCE.

A small group of Jews led by Matthathias the Hasmonean and his son, Judah Maccabee, organised a rebellion against the Syrian army. Through guerrilla warfare tactics, the Maccabees were successful in driving the foreigners from their land.

The Second Temple was reclaimed and cleansed, and the altar rebuilt, culminating in the lighting of its menorah – a gold candelabra with seven or nine branches.

According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, the Jews who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle.

When it came time to relight the menorah in the temple, only a small jar of holy oil was salvaged. This was only enough to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day. However, the flames continued to flicker for eight nights, giving them time to source a fresh supply of oil.

This miracle led to the yearly eight-day festival of lights. Today it is probably the most well known of Jewish holidays.

For many non-Jews, Chanukkah is considered the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. However, in reality the similarities between the two religious observances begin and end with the time of year.

Other than being celebrated in proximity to each other, there are no other parallels between Chanukkah and Christmas.

With the retail countdown to Christmas beginning as early as November, it is easy for the festival of Chanukkah to get lost in all of the hustle and bustle of the season. But Jews around the world continue to celebrate the tradition of Chanukkah by hosting special services, lighting the menorah, playing the traditional game of dreidel and eating special holiday foods.

Here in Bermuda, at the Jewish Community Centre, members and friends will honour the occasion with a community candle lighting.

Fiona Elkinson, president of The Jewish Community of Bermuda, explains what the event will look like.

“We have a party on the first night of Chanukkah, where we will light the menorah and say the blessings. Each family will bring their own menorah and as the sun sets, we will turn off the lights and light them in unison. It is quite charming.

“Then we sing Chanukkah songs together.”

The event is family friendly, and children are very welcome, she explains.

“The kids will all play dreidel together and swap chocolate Chanukkah gelt money. They’ll sing songs for the adults or perform a small play.”

For the remainder of the Chanukkah period families will continue their observances in their own homes or gather in small groups.

“We would do the same thing for another seven nights in our own homes, adding a candle each night until the last night when we light all eight candles, or nine with the Shamash.”

To learn more about Chanukkah or the Jewish faith, please visit www.jewishbermuda.com

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Published December 17, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated December 18, 2022 at 3:29 pm)

How Bermuda’s Jewish community will celebrate Chanukkah

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