Stories of the tradition of Hanukkah flow throughout the house while the menorah is lit. It is filled with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and cultures, who gather for a glimpse into a possibly unfamiliar holiday.
Many may come to try the different types of food that line the table or to play traditional games like dreidel, a four-sided top that is spun for different outcomes. A chance for fellowship and competition.
Hanukkah is an eight day celebration which falls this year from Dec. 2-10. It is a celebration in the Jewish community that honors the rededication of the Holy Temple, retired Rabbi Larry Schlesinger said.
“The story that goes along with that, when they went into the temple they needed oil,” he said. “They only found a little vial of this purest oil, and it was enough to last one day so they poured it into the eternal light and lo and behold it burned for eight days.”
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He said this is why they celebrate eight days of Hanukkah. The tradition is centered around how a group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee took back the temple after it has been turned into a pagan worshipping ground by the Seleucids. Once they regained control of the temple, the group followed how King Solomon’s original dedication of the temple went over the course of an eight day ceremony, said Larry.
“With our celebration, it is all about the food,” Darrie Schlesinger, Larry’s wife, said.
Traditional dishes are served over the course of the eight day holiday like rugelach, brisket and latkes, she said.
“We eat a lot of different foods that are cooked with oil. This is another reminder that the menorah are lit by oil,” Darrie said. “This a recipe, rugelach, that my family would have out on a lot of the holidays. It looks almost like a strudel.”
She fills the rugelach with ingredients like apricot jam, raisins, cinnamon and walnuts.
Darrie said that she enjoys making the recipes that were passed down to her but she didn’t learn from a family cookbook: she wrote it.
“It was passed down to me from my grandmother,” Darrie said. “I actually had to take measurements with what she was doing. She came from a background where they would just scoop up the flour and grab a couple of sticks of butter, big scoops of sour cream and just add that into the recipe. I did some measurements so that I could pass it down to the next generation if they don’t learn how to watch and actually make it, the recipes are still available.”
Larry says that the latkes, a potato pancake, are what bring back the memories of growing up celebrating Hanukkah.
“It is just taking potatoes, chopping them up and frying them up. It was more like a Waffle House hash brown,” he said. “I am going back to my childhood. I am going back to a time when a lot of my relatives who are no longer around because time has passed and the Angel of Death has made its passings.”
Jewish families like the Schlesinger’s typically have a get-together for Hanukkah. They invite family members and others who are not Jewish as a chance to open their minds to a different culture, Darrie said.
“When I say open their minds, I mean enjoy the celebration and get a feeling for the symbolism and the meaning of the holiday,” she said. “They want to come in and sample everything. The feeling, the meaning and the food... it is all part of it.”