Spokane’s Jewish Congregations to Commemorate Hope and Light during Their Chanukah Celebrations
News Story by Cassy Benefield | FāVS News
Chanukah brings light into the darkness and hope in times of despair. At least that’s what the Jewish congregations in Spokane County will demonstrate with their celebrations on Dec. 10.
Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) and Congregation Emanu-El (CEE) will host their Chanukah event at the synagogue on the South Hill, 1322 East 30th Ave.
As the only physical, conservative synagogue between Seattle and Montana, TBS hosted about 200 people last year and are on track for the same attendance. This includes temple members, Jewish non-members and the non-Jewish community.
“We are a small Jewish community and our community needs each other right now. So, we try to gather whenever we can, and especially around a time that’s typically very joyous and fun,” said Zina Zimmerman-Pegg, the director of Youth Education and Programming and coordinator of the event.
“Hopefully we can provide a space to celebrate the little moment that is Chanukah and in the grand scheme of dark times,” she said.
What Is Chanukah?
Chanukah is an eight-day celebration commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the liberation and rededication of the Temple.
This year’s Chanukah celebrations come at a time when Israelis are at war with Hamas after that group attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
Chanukah embodies a fun and light-hearted atmosphere that kids love because they get to enjoy receiving a little present this time of year. It could not have come at a better time, said Zimmerman-Pegg.
“The story of the Maccabees, fighting against all odds and defeating the Greek Syrian army … is inspiring especially right now, in times of war,” she said. “We are a resilient people. We will get through this.”
Zimmerman-Pegg also thinks that TBS’ event theme “Shine Your Light” is perfect for the current moment.
Starting at 4:30 p.m., the celebration begins with children and adult programming that includes making edible dreidels, playing games and families taking a story walk to learn more about Chanukah.
At 5:30 p.m. the community will light the large Chanukiyah (Chanukah menorah) and celebrate with special songs and blessings, a light dinner to begin at 5:45 p.m., sharing special “fried foods” (to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting eight days), songs and games.
Due to security reasons, TBS asks participants to register online. The event costs $8 per person and $18 per family for members and $10 per person and $36 per family for non-members.
Another Chanukah Celebration
TBS and CEE are not the only Jewish congregations celebrating Chanukah on Dec. 10.
The Chabad of Spokane County will begin their celebration with a car parade with lit menorahs on top of vehicles. Participants will meet at 4 p.m. in the old Shopko parking lot, E. 44th Ave. and S. Regal St.
They will then drive downtown and by 5 p.m. gather outside at Riverfront Park, 507 N. Howard St., by the rotary fountain. There, they will host the annual public menorah lighting and honor public dignitaries with gelt drops (chocolate coins). These two events are free and open to the public.
The Chabad asks all participants to RSVP to the car parade so they have enough menorahs for all the vehicles.
Finally, they will host their Chanukah party at the Pavilion at Riverfront Park at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will include fellowship, a concert by Tali Yess, a light dinner, family arts and crafts and a store. If guests would like to attend the party, tickets cost $20 for all ages and can be purchased online.
Rabbi Yisroel Hahn, who leads the Chabad, wants his guests to understand one other message of Chanukah in addition to light and hope. That message is the Maccabees were a few in number but overcame a large and might army.
“At that time, the Jews were few in number. Today many Jews feel incredibly isolated. Small. A few in number,” Hahn said. “There’s a rise of antisemitism. So, one message of Chanukah is you’re not alone. Just like it was in those days. … A few in number overcame many. We’re not alone. Thank God.”