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Mamaroneck Rabbi Lights First Candle for Hanukkah

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Rabbi Moishe Steigmann will light the first candle on the menorah at the Westchester Jewish Center (WJC) Tuesday for the first day of Hanukkah.

Throughout the week, WJC will sing songs, eat latkes and play dreidel games to celebrate Hanukkah, which is known as the Festival of Lights, the triumph of light over darkness. While children play spin the dreidel, Steigmann, a Mamaroneck resident, wants them to remain mindful that the Hebrew letters adorning the dreidel translate to "A great miracle happened there."

"Hanukkah is a particularly fun and celebratory holiday," said Steigmann, who has been a rabbi at WJC since 2005. "First, it helps remind us, as Jews, of the miracles that God brought on our behalf. There are two miracles that we celebrate over the holiday."

The holiday commemorates the victory of a small band of Jewish warriors more than 2,000 years ago. The warriors, Judah and the Macabees, fought against Syrian-Greeks for their religious freedom. Against all odds, Judah and the Macabees defeated one of the mightiest armies at that time and drove the Greeks from the land, and reclaimed their Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

When Judah and the Macabees were ready to rededicate the temple by lighting the temple's menorah, they found only enough oil for one day, even though it would take eight days before the temple could be fully dedicated.

But the small amount of oil burned for eight days, long enough for the temple to be rededicated and a new supply of oil to be ready.

"Another key element of Hanukkah is that the menorah where the candles are lit are supposed to be left in a window so the world can see it," Steigmann said. "Hanukkah is really a beautiful holiday reminder, both on a personal level inside the home and also for the community outside the home."

In the tradition of Hanukkah, the synagogue’s celebration includes food made in oil, such as donuts and fried potato latkes. Children play dreidel games and get gold chocolate coins, called gelt. Each night for eight nights, families light a candle on the menorah in memory of the hard won religious freedom.

Wednesday, WJC's gift shop will have a 20-percent-off sale on all merchandise, including the menorah pictured above, from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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