Hanukkah: A Time for Jews to Reflect on Tradition, Dedication

By Taylor, Alliniece | The Florida Times Union, December 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Hanukkah: A Time for Jews to Reflect on Tradition, Dedication


Taylor, Alliniece, The Florida Times Union


JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- The blue plastic structure in Rabbi

Arnold Stiebel's front yard is not standard in all Jewish

households, but the 7-foot candle holder represents part of the

legendary story behind the Jewish holiday Hanukkah that ended

yesterday.

Each night during an eight-day stretch, Stiebel lights a candle

in the oversized menorah in recognition of Jews who stretched

one jar of oil to light their way for eight nights more than

2,000 years ago.

The holiday marks a time for family, good food and remembrance

for many Jews.

"Hanukkah is a tradition in a family that is handed down from

generation to generation," said Ponte Vedra Beach resident Jeff

Goldhagen.

"We always had a lot of people in my house," recalled Stiebel,

rabbi of Beth El, The Beaches Synagogue, about celebrating the

holiday as a child.

Many families sing traditional songs as they light the menorah

at sundown, with each person reciting lyrics like: "Gather

around the table, we'll give you a treat. Dreidles to play with

and latkas [potato pancakes] to eat."

Presents, latkas and candy -- often one for each night -- are

the first thing many Jewish children mention when asked what

Hanukkah means to them.

But Hanukkah should not be called the Jewish Christmas just

because gifts are exchanged, said Vickie Kennedy, who teaches

Hebrew at the synagogue and works as a fourth-grade teacher at

Neptune Beach Elementary School.

Kennedy disagrees with the way in which Christmas is

incorporated into the schools without acknowledging traditions

of other faiths.

"Personally it makes me nuts," she said. "They [Jewish

children] feel like they don't belong when there's all the

Christmas stuff and they're choosing not to actively

participate."

That's not the case for 11-year-old Samantha Rosenfeld, who

attends Landrum Middle School. At her school "they have a

Christmas tree and next to it they have a menorah."

But Kennedy, who has lived in Ponte Vedra Beach for 10 years,

said when the Mariott at Sawgrass had a candlelighting festival

Dec. 5 to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, that was the

first public recognition of a Jewish holiday she's seen in the

area.

After winning a three-year revolutionary war against the

Seleucid Greeks, who desecrated their temple in Jerusalem, the

Maccabees, a small band of Jews, purified and rededicated the

temple.

Hanukkah, a Hebrew word for dedication, refers to a ceremony

that occurred in the 2nd century before the common era, marked

by the birth of Jesus. …

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