BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. Congregation Sons of Israel members will be celebrating Hanukkah with a host of activities from building a giant menorah out of Legos to making jelly doughnuts and latkes.
"Hanukkah means 'rededication,'" said Roni Shapiro, the educational director at the synagogue, which is located at 1666 Pleasantville Road on the Briarcliff/Ossining border. "It's not one of the holiest days of the year, but it's a festival."
The eight-day holiday is celebrated to remember when the Syrian Greeks destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem because they wanted everyone to convert to Hellenism, Shapiro explained. Judah Maccabee, a Jewish priest, led a revolution against the Greeks and won, and the Israeli temple was rededicated to the Jews.
After the war, the Israelites in the Temple lit a menorah using a small amount of oil that was used by the holy priests. The oil was expected to last for only one day, but by a miracle, it lasted for eight days, and thus, the festival of Hanukkah lasts for eight days.
"Hanukkah is about believing what you want to believe, not anyone telling you what to believe. It's about having respect for everyone's beliefs and being proud that you're Jewish," Shapiro said. "It's also about giving to others."
The congregation's Hanukkah activities will begin on Saturday night when teenagers participate in a "midnight run" to feed homeless people in New York City.
On Sunday morning, children in Hebrew school will sing songs from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and in the afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., children will build a giant menorah out of Legos and then light it.
On Tuesday, the first day of Hanukkah, children in Hebrew school will make jelly doughnuts which is a tradition that celebrates that miracle of oil, and they will light a hanukkiyah, a kind of menorah, outside the temple.
On Wednesday, Congregation Sons of Isreal's nursery school children and parents will make latkes, a type of potato pancake that also celebrates the miracle of oil, and they will play the dreidel game with chocolate kisses and gelt, coin-shaped chocolate wrapped in gold paper.
Traditionally, children receive gifts every day of Hanukkah, but some families do other activities instead of giving gifts.
"With our family, our kids don't get gifts every night. Some nights we do a community service project like I take my kids to a kosher food pantry at the Pelham Parkway Community Center," Shapiro said.
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