Celebrate Hanukkah with CBE

Hanukkah 2022/5783
Sunday, December 18–Sunday, December 25

You’re invited to eight fun-packed nights of Hanukkah at CBE! Join us in our festivities as we commemorate the miracle of the oil.

Last updated 12/7/22 at 5:30 PM. 

FOR YOUTH AND FAMILY

The Youth and Family Great Hanukkah Sing-Along, starring Debbie Brukman and Friends

Sunday, December 18 at 4:30 PM in the CBE Sanctuary  | Candle lighting at 6:00 PM on the CBE Sanctuary Steps
Celebrate Hanukkah’s first night with our Youth and Family Great Hanukkah Sing-Along. From “Five Little Latkes” to “I Have A Little Dreidel,” we’ll be singing all of our Hanukkah favorites. Afterwards, everyone is welcome to help us light the candles.

Packing Clothing and Toiletries Care Packages

In partnership with CBE’s Refugee Task Force

Sunday, December 18 at 4:30 PM in the CBE Social Hall
During this time, we’ll be creating care packages that will be delivered to asylum-seeking families and children who have recently arrived in NYC. The packages will include the items collected in the CBE-wide clothing and toiletries drive taking place right now. Come pack bags, learn a bit about those seeking asylum, and perform a mitzvah together as a family.

* This packing project is geared towards families with children 4 and older.

A playground of Light: A Sensory sensitive hanukkah celebration

In collaboration with Yachad’s Neurodiverse / Special Needs Parent Committee

Sunday, December 18 from 5:00–6:00 PM in the CBE Temple House (274 Garfield Place)

This Playground of Light event is specifically for children with special needs, disabilities, and sensory sensitivities. The activities, and the space in which they’re held, will be thoughtfully designed with this population of children in mind, and all ages are welcome to join us as we explore light!

In order for us to be as intentional as possible for this event, we are asking families to please RSVP here. We will end with our own candle lighting at approximately 5:50 PM, so that any families who wish to participate in the large-group candle lighting on the Sanctuary steps at 6:00 PM will be able to do so. We encourage you to pass this along to anyone else you think might be interested in participating, members of CBE and non-members alike.

FOR EVERYONE

Community Hanukkah Candle Lighting at cbe

Sunday, December 18 through Friday, December 23 at 6:00 PM on the CBE Sanctuary Steps
Help us light the candles as a community! All are invited to enjoy the miracle of the lights with us—you don’t need to be a member to attend.

Shine a Light on antisemitism: Times Square Menorah Lighting

Monday, December 19 at 5:00–6:30 PM in Times Square — Enter at Broadway and 47th Street
Shine a Light on Antisemitism, a purpose-driven convening platform against antisemitism, will be conducting a public menorah lighting as a national demonstration of Jewish pride. We are proud to announce that CBE will be participating along with our friends from Antioch Baptist Church. Rabbi Timoner and Reverend Waterman will each speak briefly, and Project Harmony will perform a song. Other highlights include lively performances from Jewish musicians and powerful messages from key city and state leaders.

Together, we will light the menorah and raise awareness about antisemitism. Bring your friends, bring your family, and most importantly, bring your light. Click here for more information.

Community Hanukkah Candle Lighting on Zoom

Saturday, December 24 and Sunday, December 25 at 6:00 PM
Nights seven and eight—on Zoom! Wherever you are for the holidays, we hope you can join us for Hanukkah’s brightest nights.

FOR THE GROWN UPS

Hanukkah Kabbalat shabbat Service

Friday, December 23 at 6:30 PM in the CBE Chapel | Jewish Happy Hour begins at 6:00 PM with Community Candle Lighting on the CBE Sanctuary Steps
Mark your calendars for a special Hanukkah Kabbalat Shabbat! Together, we’ll light the candles on the CBE Sanctuary Steps, and afterwards, we’ll head over to the lobby and indulge in latkes and donuts. Shabbat services will be held on Zoom for the rest of December, so don’t miss this last opportunity to see each other in person until 2023.

The Story of Hanukkah​

Unlike many Jewish holidays, Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) is not mentioned in the Bible. The historical events upon which the celebration is based are recorded in Maccabees I and II, two books contained within a later collection of writings known as the Apocrypha. Although Hanukkah is considered a “minor” Jewish festival, today it ranks—along with Passover and Purim—as one of the most beloved Jewish family holidays.

In the year 168 B.C.E., the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes sent his soldiers to Jerusalem. The Syrians desecrated the Temple, the holiest place for Jews at that time. Antiochus also abolished Judaism, outlawing the observance of Shabbat and the Festivals, as well as circumcision. Altars and idols were set up for the worship of Greek gods and he offered Jews two options: conversion or death.

On the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev in 168 B.C.E., the Temple was renamed for the Greek god Zeus. A resistance movement— led by a priestly family known as the Hasmoneans, or Maccabees—developed against the cruelty of Antiochus. The head of the family was Mattathias, an elderly man. His son, Judah, became the chief strategist and military leader of the resistance. Though outnumbered, Judah Maccabee and his fighters miraculously won two major battles, routing the Syrians decisively.

Although historians debate the causes and outcomes of the war in which Judah Maccabee and his followers defeated the Syrian armies of Antiochus, there is no doubt that Hanukkah evokes stirring images of Jewish valor against overwhelming odds. Other themes rooted in the observance of the holiday include the refusal to submit to the religious demands of an empire practicing idolatry, the struggle against total assimilation into Hellenistic culture and loss of Jewish identity, and the fight for Jewish political autonomy and self-determination.

Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” is the festival that commemorates the purification and rededication of the Temple following the defilement caused by the Greeks during their occupation of that holy place. Today, the holiday reminds Jews to rededicate themselves to stand against forces that would destroy Judaism and to keep alive the flame of Jewish religion, culture, and peoplehood so that it may be passed on to the next generation.

Originally, the eight-day holiday was intended to parallel the eight-day festival of Sukkot. The Books of the Maccabees made no mention of the legend concerning a small jar of oil that unexpectedly lasted for eight days. Only centuries after the Maccabees’ defeat of the Syrians did the story of the jar of oil—which has come to be a part of Hanukkah—appear in the Talmud.

According to the legend, when the Maccabees entered the Temple and began to reclaim it from the Greeks, they immediately relit the ner tamid (eternal light), which burned constantly in the Temple and has a parallel in our synagogues to this day. In the Temple, they found a single jar of oil, which was sufficient for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, and miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the eight days of Hanukkah to the miracle of this single jar of oil.

Although the practice of lighting the menorah was common throughout much of the 19th century, North American Jews tended to neglect most of the other traditions and practices associated with the holiday. By the 1920s, however, Jews increasingly added gift-giving to their Hanukkah celebrations, prompting Christians to refer to Hanukkah as the “Jewish Christmas.”

Like many aspects of Jewish religious practice, the transformation of Hanukkah was linked to the growth of North American Jewry within its unique environment. The elevation of Hanukkah to a major holiday was the result of Jews acculturating themselves to a North America that was overwhelmingly Christian in population and symbols.

Although Hanukkah had become an important holiday among North American Jews by the 1920s, it would be incorrect to regard it as an imitation of Christmas with an emphasis on the exchange of presents. Rather, North American Jews use this holiday as a celebration of family, reinforcing Jewish identity in a place whose population may be overwhelmingly Christian but in which Jews feel at home. Hanukkah, therefore, is a means for North American Jews to feel a kinship with their neighbors, while simultaneously asserting their Jewish distinctiveness.

Customs & Rituals

Blessings and Candlelighting

Any member or members of the family may chant or recite the blessings. One person lights and holds the shamash, the blessings are pronounced, and then the candles are lit (from left to right, so that the kindling begins with the newest light).

Two blessings are chanted or recited every night of Hanukkah. The first is a blessing over the candles themselves. The second blessing expresses thanks for the miracle of deliverance. A third blessing—the Shehecheyanu prayer, marking all joyous occasions in Jewish life—is chanted or recited only on the first night.

Ritual Objects

Ritual objects associated with Hanukkah include the menorah and the dreidel.

Menorah is a Hebrew word meaning “candelabrum” and refers to the nine-branched ceremonial lamp in which the Hanukkah candles are placed and blessed each night of the holiday. The nine branches include eight branches, one for each day of the holiday, and one branch for the shamash (helper) candle that is used to light the other candles. In ancient times, oil was used in the menorah. Over time, candles were substituted for oil. The Hanukkah menorah can also be called a hanukkiyah.

The word dreidel derives from a German word meaning “spinning top,” and is the toy used in a Hanukkah game adapted from an old German gambling game. Hanukkah was one of the few times of the year when rabbis permitted games of chance. The four sides of the top bear four Hebrew letters: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin. Players begin by putting into a central pot or “kitty” a certain number of coins, chocolate money known as gelt, nuts, buttons or other small objects. Each player in turn spins the dreidel and proceeds as follows:

nun— take nothing;
gimmel —take everything;
hey —take half;
shin —put one in.

Over time, the letters on the dreidel were reinterpreted to stand for the first letter of each word in the Hebrew statement “Neis gadol hayah sham,” which means “A great miracle happened there” and refers to the defeat of the Syrian army and the re-dedication of the Temple. In Israel, one letter on the dreidel differs from those used in the rest of the world. The shin has been replaced with a pey, transforming the Hebrew statement into Neis gadol hayah po, which means“A great miracle happened here.”

Food

Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts)—foods cooked in oil—are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah and serve as a symbol of the legend of the jar of oil that lasted for eight days. In Israel, pastry shops specialize in creating delicious and creative sufganiyot.

Preparing for the Holiday

To prepare for Hanukkah, make sure you have candles and a menorah, or, as is the custom in some families, one for each member of the family. You also can decide together how they will celebrate each night of the holiday—whether with activities, cooking, or bringing a social justice element to the holiday.

 


Content Courtesy of ReformJudaism.org