Festival of Lights: Jewish Congregation of Marco Island celebrates Hanukkah

Lance Shearer

The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island invited the community to a public Hanukkah observance on Saturday evening, at sunset as the day officially begins in Judaism, and one day after their regular Friday Shabbat service.

Hanukkah is the festival of lights. Night after night, over the eight days of the celebration, another candle is lit. Jewish households have menorahs, and a towering menorah, with space for eight torches plus a central “shamash” or servant flame, was erected outside JCMI. Dignitaries including three members of the Marco Island City Council were given the honor of lighting a candle.

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For a while out in front of the temple, with over 150 in attendance, light was in short supply. The long butane lighter would not ignite for Councilor Erik Brechnitz, so Rabbi Mark Gross had vocal soloist Grace Fields extend her song as he accompanied her on guitar, and another lighter was procured.

“Don’t let the light go out. It lasted for so many years,” she sang. “It’s ironic in this technical age we have this problem,” said Gross. Brechnitz, along with Councilors Larry Honig and Jared Grifoni, MIPD Chief Tracy Frazzano, and Jeffrey Feld, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, lit their candles, and the brief ceremony concluded.

Tied to the Hebrew lunar calendar, the dates of Hanukkah float around the Gregorian calendar, starting anywhere from late November to late December. Last year, Hanukkah began at sunset on Dec. 2 and ran through the 10th. This year, it started on Dec. 22 and ran through Dec. 30.

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The celebration commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. According to tradition, the Israelites had enough oil to light their ceremonial flame for only one night, but miraculously, it lasted for eight days.

After the flames were lit, the congregation trooped inside the temple, where the traditional Hanukkah foods of latkes or potato pancakes, topped with sour cream and applesauce awaited, cooked up by the JCMI Chefs. They were served along with an assortment of pastries, with exotic names like rugelach and sufganiyot, plus the traditional Hanukkah gelt, gold-wrapped chocolate coins. On this night, the kids got to eat dessert first, and so did the adults.

Additional public events at JCMI, along with their popular Monday night bingo, include the Atlantic City Boys concert on Jan. 25, and the Saul I. Stern Cultural Series of lectures and concerts.