Mercer Island Hanukkah events shine a light on Jewish culture

The Festival of Lights, begins this year on the evening of Dec. 2 and concludes the evening of Monday, Dec. 10.

This year, Mercer Island will host a mix of old and new Hanukkah traditions, including the lighting of a public six-foot menorah at New Seasons and a dance party at the J.

The Island’s Stroum Jewish Community Center (the SJCC, or J) will host indie-pop band The LeeVees as they perform a “Hanukkah Rocks” Family Dance Party at 1 p.m. on Dec. 9.

The band’s debut album, “Hanukkah Rocks,” features humorous songs like “How Do You Spell Chanukkahh?” and the classic punk tune “Gelt Melts,” that ask tough questions set to fun, catchy music. There’s plenty of fist-pumping sing-along action and fun, kitsch factor for all kids, teens, and parents alike. There will also be Hanukkah games and art, food trucks and a candle lighting.

Nightly candle lighting is at the heart of the festival. As part of the world’s largest Hanukkah observance, Chabad Mercer Island will ignite a public Hanukkah menorah erected at New Seasons Market, followed by a community-wide celebration on Dec. 6, the fifth night of the eight-day holiday.

The ceremony is organized by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld. Following the menorah lighting ceremony, dozens will celebrate, sing and eat the night away. Special for this year will be the presence of the new Kosher Food Truck.

Additionally, the celebration will feature an Olive Oil Press Workshop for kids and their families. The hands-on event illustrates the process that was used to produce pure olive oil more than 2,100 years ago for the Temple menorah of Hanukkah Story fame.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught of the need to turn hate/tears into action. After Pittsburgh, the menorah’s message as a symbol of the Island’s dedication to preserve and encourage the right and liberty of all its citizens to worship God freely, openly, and with pride, is even more relevant,” Kornfeld said.

The Menorah lighting is part of the worldwide Hanukkah campaign, an initiative launched in 1973. The campaign highlights and encourages the central theme of the holiday — publicizing the story of the Hanukkah miracle.

“The message of Hanukkah is the message of light,” Kornfeld added. “The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”

Today, the unprecedented public display of Hanukkah has become a staple of Jewish cultural and religious life, forever altering the American practice and awareness of the festival. Mercer Island’s menorah is one of more than 15,000 large public menorahs sponsored by Chabad in more than 100 countries around the world, including in front of landmarks such as the White House, the Eiffel Tower and the Kremlin, helping children and adults of all walks of life discover and enjoy the holiday message.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins this year on the evening of Dec. 2 and concludes the evening of Monday, Dec. 10. It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom. They also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service. Upon recapturing the Temple only one jar of undefiled oil was found, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight. In commemoration, Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabrum known as a menorah. Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.

Throughout the state of Washington, Chabad will be presenting scores of Hanukkah events and celebrations. To find a local event in the Seattle area, or practically anywhere throughout the world, visit the international Hanukkah event directory at www.chabadmercerisland.org/HanukkahEvents.

For more information about Hanukkah and a local schedule of events visit chabadmercerisland.org/Hanukkah.

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