Celebration of Hanukkah – Jewish Festival of Lights – begins at sundown


Correction: Spelling of Hanukkah corrected.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — We are at the time of year when those of the Jewish faith celebrate their festival of lights, Hanukkah. The holiday — celebrated all over the world — has a deep heritage in Hagerstown.

Alice Haber has loving memories of her family heritage dating back a full century in Hagerstown. And as a member of the Jewish faith, Hanukkah is a time to reflect on just how special family is. And this year, with a pandemic, things are not much different at this Hanukkah celebration than they were those many generations ago.

“My mother’s oldest brother died in the flu epidemic of 1918,” says Haber. “And he was born and raised in Hagerstown. And he was buried in the cemetery that was in the back of the synagogue in Hagerstown.”

Rabbi Ari Plost leads the B’nai Abraham Hebrew Congregation in Hagerstown. And with a pandemic now — just as Alice Haber recalls from her uncle generations ago, this year’s Hanukkah observance takes on special meaning.

“What’s most remarkable for us in this time of darkness and despair is that this is a holiday of hope and how wonderful it is that in this season of lighting our lights that we are able to re-imagine our Hanukkah in a different way this year,” says Plost.

Hanukkah commemorates the rebuilding of the ancient temple in Jerusalem. The holiday is marked by lighting a candelabrum — or menorah – to celebrate the survival of the Hebrew culture. A celebration that coincides with the biggest holiday season of the year.

“Americans made it into a big holiday,” says Haber “because they felt children were being deprived when all their friends were celebrating Christmas.”

The Hanukkah observance continues through next week. And for Jewish children, the holiday is a time for exchanging gifts and playing games in the home with family and friends.

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