Saturday marks the first of eight nights of Hanukkah for the Jewish community.
As Jews are preparing their menorahs, or, in Hebrew, "hanukiah," Saturday, the leaders of two local temples are reminding their congregants, and others, of the reason for the season.
Rabbi Mark Finkel, of the Pine Brook Jewish Center, said Hanukkah is a reminder of religious freedom, "which we take for granted in the United States as one of our freedoms."
"It was something that was rarely known in the ancient world," he said. "We see, in terms of our world today, that there is religious intolerance."
Finkel said the story of Hanukkah dates back to ancient times when a group of Jews, the Maccabees, had to fight for their freedom. After returning to their temple they were forced to flee, the Maccabees thought they only had enough oil to last one night. But, as the story goes, according to Finkel, the oil lasted eight.
Just as the Maccabees were "given a gift," Finkel said, of light, the Hanukkah story can ring true in modern times.
"Hanukkah is telling us that we should give thought to the things that we often take for granted," he said.
Rabbi Josh Leighton, of the Jewish Congregation of Kinnelon, said Hanukkah is also about coming together.
"Hanukkah is a time to be together with family and it's a time, also, to dedicate ourselves to our families, our traditions and be together," he said.
Those traditions are different for every family, but one of the most common Hanukkah traditions includes playing the dreidel. Leighton said the letters on the dreidel symbolize the phrase "a great miracle happened here."
"That refers to the oil lasting eight nights in the temple," he said.
Like most other holidays, Hanukkah also has traditions around eating.
"As a reminder of the miracle of the oil that the Maccabees found in the temple in Jerusalem, we have food generally made with oil," Finkel said.
This includes potato pancakes, or, "latkes," and donuts.
While many communities have come to host gatherings surrounding Hanukkah, Finkel said it is more common for families to celebrate privately with each other.
"Hanukkah is celebrated more at home than in the synogrague," he said.
However, for those looking to come together with others, both congregations will be hosting events in the coming days. Finkel said he is expecting about two dozen people to attend the annual menorah lighting in Montville on Monday (see details below). Leighton said he is also expecting a large crowd for his congregation's "Latkerama" on Sunday.
"This will be an evening of celebration of music, of food and, specifically, latkes," Leighton said.
Nearby Hanukkah Events
WHEN: Sunday at 5 p.m.
WHERE: 21 Passaic Avenue, Pompton Lakes (Congregation Beth Shalom)
WHAT: The Jewish Congregation of Kinnelon will host their annual Hanukkah celebration in their new home which will feature homemade potato latkes and donuts, dreidel spinning, homemade chocolate coins, also known as "gelt," story-telling, live music and crafts. All are welcome to attend and a kosher meal will be served.
Public Menorah Lighting
WHEN: Monday at 7 p.m.
WHERE: 95 Changebridge Road, Montville (in front of the Montville Township Municipal Building)
WHAT: The Pine Brook Jewish Center congregants will be joined by family members and friends to light the public, electronic menorah and celebrate the holiday.
How will you be celebrating Hanukkah with your family? Tell us in the comments.