Hanukkah a time to give thanks
Freedom. Tolerance. Giving thanks.
Rabbi William Berkowitz sees these as pillars of both the Thanksgiving holiday and Hanukkah.
Berkowitz, who leads the congregation at Temple B'rith Shalom in Prescott, said Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have similar themes that people can take to heart in life's peaks and valleys.
Both focus on thanking God for the harvest, religious freedom and being grateful for another year of life, Berkowitz said.
"I think it's very important that in good times and not such good times that we set aside occasions for celebration and pure joy," he said.
The Jewish holiday commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenistic Syrians in 165 B.C., and the restoration of the holy temple in Jerusalem.
Jews observe Hanukkah by lighting candles for eight days to commemorate the number of days that oil burned after the Maccabees lit it in the temple, thinking they had enough oil to burn for just one day.
Hanukkah begins at sunset Wednesday.
"It's a chance to spread light and joy in the winter darkness," the rabbi said. "We've been doing this for 2,000 years."
Berkowitz said the Prescott temple will host a potluck celebration during the holiday with local members, including the youngest members of the congregation.
"We often experience Hanukkah through the eyes of our children, and it's a very happy time," he said. "It's a clear reminder of how much uplift and love family can bring."
Adele Plotkin with Beit Torah Jewish Congregation in Prescott Valley said there is some thought that Hanukkah came from a missed earlier holiday with a focus on giving thanks for a good harvest and for having ample means of sustenance.
Plotkin said Hanukkah is about religious tolerance and people coming together and getting along regardless of their religion.
"The main message of Hanukkah is celebrating religious freedom and freedom from discrimination," she said.
Bailee Petrovsky, who is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah next year, said the holiday is about the history of the holiday, the gifts, the tradition and the family coming together.
Bailee, 12, said she thinks it's "cool" that the Maccabees thought the oil would last one day and it lasted more than a week.
And Bailee is looking forward to continuing the message and meaning of the holiday for years to come.
"I think it's important that families have traditions," she said.
David Ziminsky, who is the same age as Bailee, said he enjoys seeing his family drive up from the Phoenix area to celebrate with him - and the food.
David said he, too, wants to move the holiday forward.
"It's fun. I want to teach my kids," he said.