Residents of Marine Park gathered on Thursday evening, December 22nd to celebrate the sixth day of Chanukah at the Carmine Carro Community Center, as they learned of its beginnings and significance.
Organized by the Marine Park Alliance (MPA), the celebration of Chanukah is part of the MPA’s Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations of diverse holidays and cultural gatherings in the last months of the year. The event was curated by Rabbi Heidi Hoover of B’ShERT (Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple) synagogue.
Hoover taught the attendees the origins of Chanukah and other customs and traditions of Judaism. Chanukah has its roots in the second century BC when Jewish warriors known as the Maccabees retook the Second Temple from their Greco-Syrian oppressors, who repurposed it for their Hellenistic religion. In the aftermath, the Jews cleansed the temple, rebuilt its altar and lit its menorah, though only found enough oil for a day. Incredibly, the oil lasted for eight days, prompting future generations to commemorate the event for eight days.
Chanukah means dedication in Hebrew and honors the Jewish warrior who fought for their religion.
“It’s important to celebrate Chanukah in this day and age because Chanukah is about religious freedom, especially in our multicultural society,” said Hoover. “It is very important for all of us to be able to be free to govern our own lives and our own bodies and to have the freedoms that we’ve been promised in this country and that includes religious rights for all as well.”
Throughout the ceremony, songs of Jewish culture were sung in various languages, such as English, Hebrew, Yiddish and even Ladino (Hebrew derived from Old Spanish). Lessons of Jewish culture were taught, particularly on how to play with the dreidel.
“This is truly a dream come true for me,” said Karen Eichel, MPA board member. “It’s an event that I’ve always fantasized to have and now we can have it here in the park. It makes me smile from ear to ear to be able to share the culture, the traditions and the love with our community.”