Hanukkah Light

The nine-branch candelabra or “menorah” that celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. after the revolt against Greek tyranny. For each of eight nights an additional candle is lit using the middle candle. One on the first day, two on the second day, and so on. When the Temple was rededicated the sacred “eternal flame” had only enough oil to stay alight for one day, but miraculously it stayed lit for eight. Since then Hanukkah has been called the “Festival of Lights.”

Hanukkah, the Jewish “Festival of the Lights” has taken on a special meaning at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor (JCC). In its fifth year, the JCC’s “One Candle” program organizes a special adopt-a-family giving event for refugees living in our community. Everyone is welcome to engage in this celebration on the third night of Hanukkah.

One candle

In recent years many Jews and Jewish organizations have been looking for more meaning in Hanukkah. The JCC givesgifts to those who are less fortunate through its “One Candle” program, named because candles are lit at each sundown during the festival. During one evening— this year on the third evening, Thursday, December 14, participating families will get together at the “J” for gift wrapping, dinner, entertainment for the whole family and general socializing and merrymaking.

Adopt a family in need

In the days leading up to the party, parents bring their kids to pick an anonymous family’s description hanging on a large candelabra, or “menorah” in the JCC’s lobby, “adopting” and shopping for that family. Jewish Family Services later distributes the gifts to the adoptive families: refugees from seven different countries now living in Washtenaw and surrounding counties. The recipients are kept anonymous to preserve their dignity and the giving families are anonymous as well. Anonymous giving is the highest form of charity in the Jewish faith.

Open to all, guided by
Jewish values

One Candle promotes the Jewish moral obligation called “tzedakah,” a Hebrew word meaning charity for all, not just fellow Jews. All members of the community, regardless of age, religious or other identity, are welcome to participate in the “One Candle” program and all other programs at the J.

Clara Silver, the J’s director of operations, said, “The creed of the J is ‘Open to all, proudly guided by Jewish values.’ We’re a cultural and educational organization, rather than a faith-based group like a synagogue. One Candle is an adopt-a-family giving event that we are very proud of.”

“The parents are really into it,” said Jessica Gillespie, the J’s family programs coordinator, who organizes and runs the One Candle event. “They’re very excited, parents and kids, because they are dealing with real families and able to personalize their giving.”

For more info on this wonderful event call Jessica Gillespie at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 734-649-1404.