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Let the Light Glow In Rochester: Celebrate Hanukkah

This year, members of the Jewish faith will celebrate Hanukkah from December 7th – 15th. For eight nights, the community lights the Hanukkiah, or the menorah used during Hanukkah, to commemorate the miracle of lights. As the story goes, after Judah and the Maccabees fought for freedom from religious persecution, they found a small amount of oil in the destroyed Holy Temple to light the menorah for only one day. The miracle is that the oil lasted eight days and nights, hence the commemoration for eight nights of Hanukkah.

While Hanukkah is not considered a high holiday in the Jewish religion, it is recognized as a joyous time of celebration for secular and religious Jews alike to gather with loved ones. Rochester is home to a large Jewish community, and there are many exciting events coming up this holiday season to recognize Hanukkah with family and friends.

Community Celebrations

For events and happenings around the Hanukkah season and year-round, connecting with the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester is a great way to engage with the local Jewish community. This non-profit has many different ways for community members to get involved, either through attending events or through volunteering. For more information, reach out to Leah Goldman, Chief Planning and Programming Officer at the Jewish Federation, at (585) 461-0490.

Don’t Forget the Food!

In addition to lighting the menorah for eight nights, families spend time cooking and baking traditional foods that commemorate Hanukkah. Perhaps the most well-known Hanukkah food is the latke, a potato pancake fried in oil that represents the oil that lasted for eight days and nights in the temple. Often served with sour cream or apple sauce, these fried pancakes are a delicious way to get in the Hanukkah spirit. Making potato latkes is fun, delicious, a bit messy, and very rewarding. It’s a wonderful time to share memories and catch up with loved ones, as it takes a while to prepare all the potatoes and convert them into scrumptious pancakes!

Challah is a traditional and beloved bread in Jewish cuisine, often enjoyed on special occasions and during the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) meal. This soft, slightly sweet bread is easily recognizable by its braided appearance, which carries deep cultural and religious significance. Stop in to Malek’s Bakery on Monroe Ave. to enjoy Challah made fresh from scratch, all day, every day!

Sufganiyot are also a staple for the Hanukkah dinner (and dessert) table. Delicious, fluffy, jelly or custard-filled fried donuts are shared between family and friends to bask in the sweetness of the holiday season together.

Other dishes you’ll find on the dinner table include kugel (a traditional sweet noodle dish), brisket, and matzo ball soup. Don’t forget about gelt, which are chocolate coins used to play dreidel, a traditional Hanukkah game.

A Joyous Season

Hanukkah is a special time of year for people of the Jewish faith to come together and celebrate the miracle of lights. With eight nights to make memories and commemorate the story of Judah and the Maccabees, this holiday is filled with love, dedication, and lots of joy. Whether it’s time spent making latkes, playing dreidel, lighting the Hanukkiah, or paying homage to the historical significance of the holiday, Hanukkah is a time of reflection, of remembrance, and of hope for the future.


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