The Greater Brandon Jewish community joined in the celebration of Chanukah, a time to mark their ancestors' victory over Syrian Greeks and a time to pay homage to the miracles of everyday life.
On Dec. 23, Congregation Beth Shalom in Brandon marked the eight-day festive period with its annual Chanukah celebration. The event included a short service and a new tradition as families brought their own menorahs to light and sat around tables together to take in a performance of Chanukah songs by Kolot Shalom, the congregation's adult choir.
"Some of the Chanukah songs were new and lovely to listen to, and others were sing-alongs," Rabbi Betsy Torop said in an email. "Other members shared a Chanukah poem and story amidst the music. There were dreidels (special Chanukah spinning tops) on the table and afterwards we joined together in donuts, a traditional Chanukah treat! It was a joyous celebration in every way."
For the Jewish community, the holiday represents an affirmation of their identity. Seeing the event come together as it did meant a lot for Torop and everyone in the community.
"Over the years at Beth Shalom we have celebrated Chanukah in many different ways," Torop said. "But we are always celebrating the generations through which we have maintained our traditions, even when it has been difficult in the face of oppression, and the presence of miracles in daily life. It means a lot to see so many joined together — from the very young to more senior members of our community. To see the symbols of the holiday in full array and to hear the beautiful music from our diverse and talented volunteer choir helped to affirm the true meaning of the festival."
One thing that is the same every year no matter what is the menorah lighting, something that means a great deal to every member of the community in their own way.
"One of the things that is most special to me is to see the many different menorahs that our families bring, all lined up and shining brightly with candles," Torop said. "No matter our celebration, we do this every year. Some menorahs are big and some are small, some are very modern and others very traditional, some belong to children or were made by them, others passed down through the family. This beautiful diversity reflects the many differences that exist within our community, yet they somehow blend to form a united whole — as do we at Beth Shalom."