Traditional First Light of Hanukkah Shines Tonight

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Byline: Teresa Mask and Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writers

Young Jewish children throughout the suburbs tonight will witness the start of the Hanukkah celebration they've been anticipating for weeks.

From Buffalo Grove to Naperville and Crystal Lake, pre-school students have been learning the history of the Jewish soldiers' victory over the Syrians to maintain their right to practice Judaism.

The Syrians in 168 B.C. wanted the Jews to worship the Greek gods. So Hanukkah, which means rededication, commemorates the rededication of the Jewish temple after a revolt against Syrian rulers.

But children are particularly fascinated with the story of the miracle of the oil, said Eudice Greenfield, director of the Lavin Educational Center in Buffalo Grove.

As the story goes, at the rededication the Jewish people looked for oil needed to light the menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum. They were able to find only one jar, enough to last for one day. To their surprise, a "miracle" occurred, and the menorah burned brightly for eight days.

Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown tonight and runs for eight days. Each evening, family members light candles of the menorahs they keep at home. In addition to the lighting of the menorah, families feast on traditional foods, including latkes, or potato pancakes.

Hanukkah will be a festival of lights in the most literal meaning of the words this year at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates.

The sixth night of Hanukkah, on Dec. 18, will be celebrated with a special Hanukkah and Shabbat family service in which members and guests are invited to bring along their menorahs - also known as chanukiyah - and light them simultaneously at the synagogue. …