Photos by Dion Ogust
The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.
– Robert Altinger
Happy early Hanukkah!
On the Hebrew calendar, 25 Kislev falls on November 27 this year. That means that Hanukkah arrives on the early side, putting the Festival of Lights alongside the Thanksgiving holiday. I wondered about the role of spiritual community to support a family’s faith journey during the holidays and beyond. Rabbi Jonathan Kligler of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation explains, “Spiritual community gives structure and support to individuals and families. For those who have chosen the Jewish path, for example, just knowing that a whole web of people that you know are celebrating at the same time and in the same way gives strength to carve out the time for one’s own spiritual practice. This is especially crucial in our world that runs 24/7, with no breaks for sacred time. All the more so for Jews, with the commercial Christmas onslaught in full gear since Halloween: Having a community that shares your practice really helps when you are a minority culture. In addition to the yearly cycle of Jewish holidays, the weekly Sabbath is really the anchor of Jewish spiritual life. For those who make the rhythm of Sabbath integral to their lives, a Jewish spiritual community provides a weekly opportunity for respite and renewal in sacred community.”
How is Hanukkah being celebrated in the Hudson Valley?
Ruth Quinn in New Paltz ties in an annual practice of giving: “We have a unique tradition in our family. For each candle we light we do a mitzvah (a good deed). Before Hanukkah season starts, we consider each candle to represent something: Self, Family, Friend, Neighbor, Community, Nature, Environment, World. We brainstorm what we are going to do for each one. So, for instance, we typically bake cookies for our neighbors, and we attach a note to it that says that we are going to come back and collect food for Family on New Paltz. We usually do something for birds for our nature project, but this year, the kids want to focus on mammals.”
Rabbi Kligler shares his personal tradition: “Hanukkah is primarily observed in the home. At our house, we have a custom of not only adding a candle each night, but an additional menorah. That way, by the eighth night we have eight menorahs blazing. We go through a lot of candles, but it is the Festival of Lights, after all.”
Public menorah lightings
Wednesday, November 27, 4 p.m. on the Walkway over the Hudson at the center bump-out.
Monday, December 2, 6 p.m., on the front lawn of the Thorne Building on Franklin Avenue in Millbrook.
Lighting every day at 3:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Poughkeepsie Civic Center. This is the largest menorah in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
Yes We “Can” menorah lightings created from donated canned goods: Sunday, December 1, 3 to 5 p.m. at the Poughkeepsie Galleria on Route 9 and Wednesday, December 4, 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Food Court at the Hudson Valley Mall on Route 9W in Kingston. The Yes We “Can” events include the Fabulous Bubble Trouble show; Hanukkah crafts and face-painting; meet Judah the Maccabee; decorate your own donut; and hot latkes and drinks.
For more information about the public lightings, call (845) 463-5801 or visit www.chabadmidhudsonvalley.com.
Woodstock Jewish Congregation hosts Hanukkah Extravaganza
In terms of music, Rabbi Kligler mentioned this interesting bit: “A few years ago the Klezmatics discovered Hanukkah lyrics that Woody Guthrie had composed when his children were young, and set them to music. One of those songs has become a standard here.” Perhaps you will hear that song at the Hanukkah Extravaganza this Sunday, November 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. Highlights include storytelling, children’s craft projects, dreidel games, gelt, sing-along with Rabbi Kligler and, of course, latkes! The Woodstock Jewish Congregation Hanukkah Sale/Book Fair will also be open during the Extravaganza.
Admission is free, with a nominal fee for craft projects, but attendees are encouraged to bring a plate of latkes and another healthy potluck dish to share. The Woodstock Jewish Congregation is located at 1682 Glasco Turnpike in Woodstock. For more information, call (845) 679-2218 or visit www.wjcshul.org.