While Chanukah is mostly celebrated in the home, Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom has found a way to build one of its most popular events of the year around the holiday.
A special Friday night service is held on Shabbat during Chanukah. All in attendance are encouraged to bring their own menorahs and to light them together at the front of the sanctuary, making for a spectacular sight. The service is followed by a delightful dinner featuring latkes, of course, roast chicken, and a wide array of other treats. There are plenty of special activities such as games and crafts for children.
Chanukah commemorates the struggle for religious freedom from the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes that occurred in 167 BCE. As the story goes, King Antiochus forced everyone in his kingdom to accept Greek customs and religion. Many Jews protested and continued to practice Judaism. The Greeks eventually took over the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews eventually won a war against the Greeks, and upon returning to reclaim the Temple, they found that it had been desecrated. They wanted to rekindle the Eternal Light, but there was only enough sacramental oil left to burn for one day. Miraculously this small amount of oil burned bright for eight days, enough time for them to prepare more sacramental oil. To celebrate this miracle, as well as to commemorate the struggle of the Jews, we celebrate Chanukah and light a Menorah (candelabra) for eight nights.