Hanukkah celebrators light up winter night with Chinese food

  • A large crowd gathered to celebrate Hanukkah Dec. 24, 2016 at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Johnny Joelson of Northampton, left, and Emily Hodos of Hadley chat during a Jewish community Hanukkah event Dec. 24, 2016 at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Helen Murphy of Amherst prepares Chinese food for a Jewish community Hanukkah event Dec. 24, 2016 at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jules, 7, and Joanna Tillinghast, both of Florence, lights the menorah Dec. 24, 2016 during a Jewish community Hanukkah event at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A festive menorah holds two lit candles Dec. 24, 2016 during a Jewish community Hanukkah event at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jim Sagalyn of Northampton, left, lights the menorah while his son Jesse Reiter and granddaughter Isabella Reiter, 6, both of New York City, N.Y., look on Dec. 24, 2016 during a Jewish community Hanukkah event at Congregation B'nai Israel in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@ecutts_HG
Published: 12/24/2016 7:46:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON – The sounds of laughing and singing filled the halls of Congregation B’nai Israel Saturday night as hundreds gathered to mark the first night of Hanukkah.

Traditionally, Jews across the world light candles to commemorate the festival of lights and the rededication of the second temple.

“This year we wanted to do something different. As luck would have it, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve, which happens once in a rare while,” Rabbi Jacob Fine said in advance of Saturday’s event.

“We thought it would be fun and playful to play around with this Jewish tradition of Jews observing Christmas Eve by going out to Chinese food and the movie,” Fine said.

As a Jew, Fine said, if you go out on Christmas Eve to the movies or to the Chinese restaurant you see the Jewish community there.

“It’s a very warm feeling,” he said.

Around 250 people packed Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton for the community Hanukkah event sponsored by the synagogue, Lander-Grinspoon Academy, Beit Ahavah – The Reform Synagogue of Greater Northampton and the PJ Library Program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

Nine-year-old Willa Polin attended the Hanukkah celebration with her brother Jasper, 7, and her mom Deborah Keisch, of Northampton.

Keisch said she was excited to celebrate the festival of lights with the whole Jewish community. The family usually stays home, according to Willa.

“I love how it is so beautiful to spend time with my family and watch the candles melt down,” Willa said.

Willa said that as she has gotten older, Hanukkah and the Jewish community has become brighter for her.

For 12-year-old Gryffin Wilkens-Plumley, of Amherst, Hanukkah means resistance. Resistance, Gryffin said, like the Maccabees in the original story who fought against Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ army.

“Resistance that finally saves the day,” he said. “Resistance of those that want to put you down.”

Gryffin’s 5-year-old sister, Morgan, didn’t know what Hanukkah meant to her but said she enjoyed the presents, chocolate and yummy food of Hanukkah.

Her favorite holiday treat was latkes, with or without applesauce.

Although eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve is no longer the family tradition, Elizabeth Wilkens-Plumley said that growing up she would do that with her mother.

“We used to go to a deli in Berkeley and Chinese food in Florida,” she said.

To celebrate, the family lights two menorahs – one in the front window and one in the back – so the candles can be seen all over the neighborhood, Elizabeth Wilkens-Plumley said.

Diane Palladino, of Florence, brought her own menorah to the event. The large blue metal moose stood out among the menorah’s spread across the tables.

“We thought it was a good New England menorah,” she said.

Palladino said her family bought it about five years ago from an artist in Florida.

Following the lighting of the candles and a dinner prepared by chef Pengyew Chin, a showing of two movies as well as dancing was planned.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com 




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