The Greater Flint Jewish community will celebrate Hanukkah from December 24-31, according to Steven Low, the Executive Director of the Flint Jewish Federation. The eight-day celebration begins in the evening, when one candle is lit and placed on a menorah, a symbol of bringing enlightenment to the world. A candle is lit each subsequent evening during the observance.
Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and is a commemoration of the first war in recorded history when the Jewish people fought for religious freedom, Low explains. Jews rose up against Syrian/Greek oppressors who desecrated Jewish places of worship and extinguished the eternal light. “The Jews rebelled and won,” he adds. When the places of worship were purified, there was only one cruse of oil that wasn’t contaminated, which left only enough oil to burn the light for one night. “Miraculously, the oil burned for eight nights,” says Low, which is why the Hanukkah celebration is eight days long.
On Friday, December 30, a joint celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah will take place at Temple Beth Israel on Calkins Road in Flint. The event will include a family-friendly religious service and a potluck dinner. Traditionally, a variety of fried foods is served during Hanukkah. “And there will be a lot of latkes,” laughs Low. Latkes are potato pancakes that are often served with toppings like sour cream or applesauce. The meal will also include the symbolic Israeli jelly doughnut, Sufganiyot. But it isn’t a typical doughnut. “It is the most elaborate, incredible doughnut you have ever seen; they are amazing!” exclaims Low.
The Hanukkah celebration will include another tradition – the spinning of the dreidel, a four-sided spinning top that has a Hebrew letter etched on each side. The toy is used for a gambling game to win prizes of candy and pennies. The celebration also includes music and singing traditional songs.