CALGARY — Next week marks an important spiritual period for Calgary’s Jewish community with the celebration of Hanukkah or Chanukah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights.
To mark this special period, the Jewish community is inviting Calgarians help celebrate the 23rd Annual Community Chanukah Menorah Lighting Ceremony at City Hall’s Atrium at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Government of Canada, will participate in this year’s ceremony.
Rabbi Menachem Matusof, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch Alberta, says the holiday celebrates the “miraculous victory” of the Jewish people who were oppressed by the Greeks.
Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, of the Beth Tzedec Congregation in Calgary, says Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday whose beauty and meaning derives from the basic human desire for freedom.
“Although Hanukkah commemorates a unique historical event in the year 165 B.C., its theme of liberation transcends the specific war between the Jewish Maccabees and the Syrian Greeks,” he says. “In every generation, the holiday of Hanukkah has served as a universal symbol representing the struggle to think, believe, and act freely. The Jewish home is the primary setting for the observance of Hanukkah because it is within that context that freedom is most dearly cherished.”
The lighting of the Menorah is a focal point of the celebration of Hanukkah. Jews everywhere light their Menorahs (candelabras) as a gesture of remembrance and commitment. The Menorahs are traditionally placed in their windows as a public gesture.
“The lighting of the Menorah is a religious Jewish practice and at the same time it became a universal celebration and recognized by the world because of the message it carries,” says Matusof.
“The particular reason for the lighting of the candle is the Greeks wanted to take out God, the holiness, spirituality from the tradition.”
Those attending the public event at City Hall are invited to bring gifts of warm clothing and sleeping bags for Project Warmth.
The ceremony includes songs by choirs from the Jewish day schools, traditional music by Take The Oy Train Klezmir band, dancing and eating traditional potato pancakes called “latkes”.
The event will be broadcast live over Shaw Cable 10 and Cable 89 and rebroadcast during Hanukkah. The event will also be carried live on the Internet at www.menorah.ca
“Jews observe Hanukkah for eight days, beginning this year on Tuesday evening December 20th, to commemorate the legend of the rededication of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem during which the cruze of oil needed to light the Menorah (candelabra) miraculously lasted eight days instead of the expected one day. Therefore, Jews light a Menorah adding another candle each night until all eight candles are burning in it on the last night,” says Osadchey.
“As it is a time of joy and celebration, the custom is to recite blessings with the candle lighting, sing songs about the Maccabees, and eat foods fried in oil such as potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly filled doughnuts). Although not a historical or traditional custom, gifts are exchanged and families are encouraged to contribute charity to those in need.”