Menorah in the D. Michigan Jews find creative fun, unity in second pandemic Hanukkah

 Menorah in the D. Michigan Jews find creative fun, unity in second pandemic Hanukkah

When the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah arrived in 2020’s final month, B’nai Israel in West Bloomfield Township joined other southeast Michigan synagogues that opted for Zoom ceremonies as COVID-19 cases threatened close contact.

A year later, loosened restrictions and rising vaccination numbers offer members another chance to celebrate the eight-night tradition known as the Festival of Lights that starts at sundown Sunday. So, next weekend, they plan to host an outdoor spectacular featuring games, stories, a petting zoo with furry mammals, guests in pajamas, stories and lighting a menorah crafted from tiki torches.

“I’m just hoping for a fun night,” said Mechelle Bernard, a longtime member from Berkley co-organizing the event. “It was hard when everything shut down (last year). Seeing each other outside will be lovely.”

The second Hanukkah during a pandemic means congregations are extending the creative planning honed over nearly two years to coordinate festivities that balance safety and community.

To some, uniting to mark a holiday that honors the memory of an ancient victory over cruelty has become even more necessary as uncertainty about the virus, political polarization and other issues remain.

“People are coming together,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director for the JCRC/AJC, the region’s most prominent Jewish-led group. “In a sense, people feel stakes are higher this year. It has this heaviness we’re all going through.”

Also spelled Chanukah, the holiday observed through Dec. 6 commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Tradition holds that Jewish ancestors known as the Maccabees defeated occupying forces who outlawed their religion, massacred many and desecrated the site.

The menorah lit nightly throughout Hanukkah symbolizes how oil believed to last a single day in the rededication instead blazed for eight.

That miracle is the focus of many holiday festivities, including one considered the largest in the area: Menorah in the D.


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