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Mon, Oct. 21

Hanukkah celebrates faith in God

PRESCOTT ­ A celebration of the joys of life and faith in God during the holiday season, Hanukkah represents a boisterous time when those of the Jewish faith gather to light the menorah, give gifts to one another, sing praises and eat heartily.

At the Temple B'rith Shalom early Saturday evening in Prescott, area Jews came together on the second night of Hanukkah to do just that ­ and, per usual, they had plenty of fun partaking in the good cheer.

Hanukkah, an extended holiday that started Friday and lasts on the 22nd, recognizes the Jews' successful independence from an ancient kingdom in the Middle East centuries ago.

By 167 BCE (Before the Common Era), a Hellenized kingdom in present-day Syria forced all of the different peoples who lived in its geographic zone of control to follow Greek custom. One of those groups, the Jews, revolted when they were pressured to abandon their religious practices.

Two years later, in 165 BCE, the Judeans had re-conquered

Jerusalem and rededicated their holy temple to the worship of one God. Today, Jews light the menorah,

traditionally a group of eight candles in a candelabrum, over a period of eight days as a symbol of their faith.

"The miracle that's written about in the Talmud (holy scripture) says that when they came into the sanctuary for the rededication, they found that they did not have enough consecrated olive oil to light the menorah," Temple B'rith Shalom Rabbi Yosef Zylberberg said. "For the holiday, they had enough for one day, but a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days, hence God was on their side."

On Saturday, after those in the Prescott synagogue had eaten their dinnertime meal, congregants gathered for a service at dark complete with wine, a large candle and spices to end Shabbat, which started

Friday evening.

At the Temple B'rith Shalom, the congregation has blossomed since its inception in 1977, and now includes about 160 family units.

Shirley Brohner, the Prescott temple's founder, said Hanukkah is all about being with your relatives.

"It's a fun holiday," she said. "You look forward to being together with family. We have wonderful, wonderful food."

Zylberberg, who has served a little over a year in his current capacity for this area's lone synagogue, said the reformed temple offers a home to the entire Jewish community here ‹ no matter whether one is an orthodox, conservative or reform Jew.

Brohner concurred.

"It's really a wonderful, friendly group of people," Brohner said. "We work together and help each other out."

Contact the reporter at dcook@prescottaz.com

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