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Temple Shalom hosts community candle-lighting ceremony to welcome the festival of Hanukkah

Posted at 7:41 AM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-08 07:38:38-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs welcomed Jewish families to its synagogue to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah with a community candle lighting on Thursday night.

The festival lasts eight days starting Thursday and ending at sundown on Friday, Dec. 15. Rabbi Jay Sherwood led the congregation in song as families lit the first candle on the menorah. The shamash- the center candle- is used to light all the other candles during the holiday. Rabbi Sherwood said the shamash symbolizes the purpose of Hanukkah- to spread light.

“The celebration reminds us to be the light for the world," he said. "It’s a reminder to us and the world to take the light that we have in our hearts and our souls, and shine it out into the world.”

Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” honors the story of an ancient rag-tag Jewish army that proclaimed victory over the larger Greek-Syrian army to take back a temple in Jerusalem. The temple was "rededicated" to the Jewish people. It was a war of religious freedom and a war of self-determination, something Rabbi Sherwood said lives on in the message of Hannukah.

“This year, especially with the strife in the United States, with antisemitism growing, with the horrors of the Hamas terrorists and Israel’s responsibility to protect itself, we need more light,” said Sherwood.

Thursday marks two months since the deadly attacks on Israel by Hamas. Many people gathering at the ceremony at Temple Shalom said they feel the need to celebrate more than ever.

“Hanukkah to me is family, is friends, it is light, it is illuminating darkness," said Barbara Greenburg, who came to celebrate the holiday with her family. “It’s so wonderful, and so welcoming, and so warm and it’s nice to have somewhere to belong.”

Ronit and Daniel Pitrone brought their five children to the festivities at the synagogue. They said the majority of their family lives in Israel, with some on the front lines of the war.

“Two of them are soldiers who have been into Gaza now several times. We received pictures that they are there lighting their hanukiahs on their tanks. They’re doing their part too to celebrate the holiday," said Daniel.

Rabbi Sherwood said the Jewish community needs to keep celebrating its holidays and keep gathering as a community despite the war.

“If we make our holidays, that are joyful holidays, if we make those holidays sad we let the terrorists win. If we stop celebrating our holidays, we let the terrorists win. We can’t do that," said Rabbi Sherwood.

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