Festival of lights and dedication

Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hanukkah is the eight-day Festival of Lights or Festival of Dedication beginning at sundown, Dec. 11.

The Jewish holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of faithful Jews over one of the mightiest armies on earth, the Greeks, who were demanding the Jewish people denounce their religion.

Against all odds, the Jews drove the Greeks from Israel and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

The “miracle of the container of oil” celebrates the purification of the temple when the wicks of the menorah on the altar miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting.

For two of Columbiana’s Jewish residents, Hanukkah has special memories and meaning. Sonya Lefkovits and Olivia Kalin are both members of Temple Emanuel in Birmingham.

Lefkovits grew up in the Jewish faith, while Kalin converted to Judaism at the time of her marriage.

Hanukkah is very special to Lefkovits.

“To me, this holiday has always been my favorite,” Lefkovits said. “It is a time of dedication and that is so important to me. I grew up during the Depression and had thirteen first cousins. When I was 16, I traveled with my mother to New York for the marriage of one of my cousins.

One day we were shopping on Delaney Street in Brooklyn, and I saw this beautiful brass menorah (Hebrew for candelabrum) in a shop.

My mother bought it for me and it remained in her home till my marriage. I keep it out all year and polish it once a year right before Hanukkah.”

It is one of her most treasured possessions.

Lefkovits remembers playing the dreidel game with her children Norman and Marsha. The dreidel is a spinning top on which the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hei and shin are inscribed. The letters stand for the Hebrew phrase, “a great miracle happened here.”

Her children were given different treats such as candy, peanuts, raisins or apples when they landed on a certain letter.

Kalin traveled to Israel with her husband and bought two very special menorahs that are now heirlooms to their family.

Her favorite is a large, silver menorah that holds the traditional nine branches, which burn candles, the shamash or servant candle, and the remaining eight candles.

The second menorah the Kalins bought in Israel has the Star of David on it, and it is lit with oil and wicks as in the temple rededication of old.

Kalin remembers establishing the traditions with her family for this special holiday, eating latkes (potato pancakes) and giving gifts to their two children.

Hanukkah is a time of dedication and a time for family that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness to the Jewish people.

Columnist Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.