Jewish Festival of Lights begins in Charlotte with lighting of menorah

Eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights started Sunday night

Many gathered at SouthPark Mall for lighting of giant menorah.
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Many gathered at SouthPark Mall for lighting of giant menorah.

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, began at sundown Sunday.

Many in Charlotte’s Jewish community celebrated by gathering at SouthPark mall for the lighting of a giant menorah – a nine-branched candelabra. The annual event, which includes a 30-car parade, is organized by Ohr HaTorah, Charlotte’s Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

During Hanukkah, a menorah is lit each of the eight nights. The holiday marks the Maccabees’ military victory over Greek Assyrian oppressors in the second century B.C.E., which restored Jewish religious and political freedom. By celebrating that victory, Jews today reject the temptation to assimilate or reject their Jewish identity and remember ancestors who were willing to die rather than give up their devotion to the Torah.

It’s called the Festival of Lights because, as the story goes, with the rededication of the Temple after victory over the Greek Assyrian armies, only one vessel of pure oil was found to rekindle the Temple’s great candelabra. It was enough to burn one night, but – miraculously –it burned for eight nights.

During Hanukkah, foods fried in oil –including latkes (potato cakes) and donuts – are popular. Children are often given “Gelt,” or money gifts. And the kids play with a “Dreidel,” a spinning top.

Hanukkah will conclude the evening of Monday, Dec. 14.

Tim Funk