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Happy Chanukah Part II - Jamaican Jews observe Chanukah with festival of lights

Published:Thursday | December 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
People dancing to Jewish music during the 2018 celebrations of Chanukah on the grounds of Terra Nova All-Suites Hotel.

On Monday, December 3, some members of the Jewish community gathered on the grounds of Terra Nova All-Suites Hotel in St Andrew to celebrate Chanukah (Hanukkah), one of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar.

Known as the festival of lights, which lasts for eight days, this year from Sunday, December 2 to Sunday, December 9, Chanukah is held to commemorate the Jews' victory, around 140 BCE, over the Greeks, who occupied Jerusalem in 313 BCE.

The victory of the Jews over the Greeks, the most powerful army in the world at the time, was a surprising one. Before the Greeks were driven out of Jerusalem, they contaminated the olive oil used to light the Menorah (lamp) in the Holy Temple. The Jews found a jug of pure olive under the floor, and though that oil was expected to last for one night, it lasted for eight days.

"The miraculous victory culminating with the dedication of the sanctuary in Jerusalem and the rekindling of the Menorah, which had been desecrated and extinguished by the enemy, has been celebrated annually ever since during these eight days of Chanukah," Menachem Schneerson, the leader of Chabad Lubavitch International said.

Since 2014, Chabad of Jamaica has been organising and hosting this commemoration, the highlight of which is the brief Menorah lighting ceremony. The Menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism, and is represented by a set of seven or eight branches of light. It is regarded "an icon for Jewish culture and faith".

"Lighting the Chanukah Menorah, especially, is a symbol of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness," Schneerson also said.

Participating in the lighting ceremony on Monday were Rabbi Yaakov Raskin of Chabad of Jamaica; Ainsley Henriques, Israel's honorary consul in Jamaica; Gideon Sisterman, Jamaica honorary consul to Israel; and Alando Terrelonge, junior minister in the Ministry of Culture Gender Entertainment and Sport.




Before the lightings Rabbi Yaakov Raskin implored everyone in the gathering, including the Jews themselves, to treat one another with respect and equality, and to get rid of concepts of divisions and fractions.

In his conclusion of his address on behalf of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Terrelonge, said, "Those of us who have triumphed over the years knows that it is only the illumination of light that can bring the world the peace that it truly deserves ... And tonight as we light the light of love, tolerance, acceptance, let us illuminate our world, and shed light against the darkness, intolerance and hate, let us together, by lighting these candles, forge a better world under the light of hope and peace in the spirit of one humanity."

The night was also marked by the eating of Jewish foods, and singing and dancing to Jewish music.