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Hanukkah in Swampscott all about community

Rabbi Michael Ragozin of Congregation Shirat Hayam lights the menorah after reading the story of Hanukkah to preschoolers in the Shirat Hayam Center for Early Education.


SWAMPSCOTT Although Hanukkah is traditionally celebrated among family, the Congregation Shirat of Hayam in Swampscott is planning a larger community event.

The Congregation Shirat Hayam Community Hanukkah Lighting will be Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 6 p.m. Hanukkah begins on Saturday and is celebrated for eight days.

Community members are asked to bring their own menorah and five candles. The event will also feature songs, games, food and hot chocolate.

The menorah lighting is held in partnership with Marblehead’s Temple Sinai. The event was held at Temple Sinai last year and drew about 60 people, according to Shirat Hayam Rabbi Michael Ragozin.

Following the lighting, there will be a gallery walk, where everyone can walk around and see the different varieties of menorahs that people brought, Ragozin said.

“It’s a tremendously wonderful feel of being together as a community at this time, to see the variety of Hanukkiah (Hebrew for menorah) and to stand together as a community, as a people, as we bring light into the darkest time of the year,” Ragozin said.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where legend shows that Jews rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt, who had tried to stamp out the Jewish religion, according to

Legend also shows that the during the rededication, after recapturing the temple, the Jews witnessed an apparent miracle. There was only enough oil to light the menorah’s candles burning for a single night, but the flames lasted for eight nights.

Ragozin said the candles are lit during Hanukkah in memory of the miracle of the oil. He said there’s also the human miracle of the holiday, as a group of people cared so deeply about the traditions of the Jewish religion that they resisted the oppressive power of assimilation, and had the courage to stand up and fight for their beliefs.

“It’s the story of the few defeating the many, the weak defeating the strong,” Ragozin said. “If our ancestors hadn’t stood up and won that war, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Rabbi David Meyer of the Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead said Hanukkah is primarily an at-home festival and that the temple is not doing much beyond their Sabbath next week. The temple had a community meal last week that included latkes, or potato pancakes.

Meyer said lighting a candle every night during Hanukkah is also an affirmation of the victory of light over the forces of darkness.

“Certainly the idea that our values and our freedoms are worth standing up for and fighting for is a message that can never grow old,” Meyer said.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley


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