EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Dreidels and latke filled the halls of Newburgh’s Temple Adath B’nai Israel this Sunday morning as families gathered to celebrate before the first night of Hanukkah.
Children played games and made crafts while the adults cooked an authentic Hanukkah dish for the Jewish holiday. Members of the temple say that Hanukkah is a time to spend with family and remembering their Jewish identity.
“You know, Hanukkah is a time to celebrate being with our family," said Davena Day a life long member of the Jewish faith. "To share the Jewish faith with my kids and husband, to do things like today where you get the community together and offer games for the kids to play, playing dreidel at night, it’s a positive...just one of those great times to celebrate being Jewish.”
Day says the story behind the holiday comes from the Seleucid occupation of the Holy Land. After a small Jewish army drove the Seleucids from the Holy Land, the Jewish people attempted to light their temple’s menorah but found only a little bit of oil left in the lamp. The story goes that the little bit of oil lasted eight days so that the Jews could make more to fill the menorah, hence the eight day celebration.
Rabbi Gary Mazo says the story of the oil is important to Hanukkah, but it’s not the overall meaning behind the holiday.
“It’s history and it’s origin though, is really a celebration of religious freedom," said Mazo.
A religious freedom that has seemed hard to come by for members of the faith. A study released by the Anti-Defamation League shows that the number of antisemitic events in 2017 was nearly 60 percent higher than 2016.
Member of the temple say those facts make this Hanukkah that much more special.
“I think having the opportunity to proudly celebrate our Jewish identity and to give thanks for the fact that we can still do that in freedom in this country is important," said Mazo.
“You can’t let what’s going on out there affect us," Day said. "We need to continue being proud of who we are and being Jewish...I think what’s happened here recently obviously is always in our thoughts, but this is also a time of joy and celebration and that’s really what I want to focus on.”