Jewish celebration of Hanukkah beginning Sunday

Published 10:02 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

Steve Grossman stood inside The Frame Shoppe and sharply slid his right hand back and forth above his left to demonstrate the act of grating potatoes to make latkes, or potato pancakes.

“I always say it needs a little red flavoring,” he said. “Because when you’re grating 10 pounds of potatoes, you tend to cut yourself.”

Grossman will peel, grate and fry a sack full of potatoes for family and friends to enjoy next week during Hanukkah.

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Sunday marks the beginning of the holiday, an eight-day commemoration of rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over the Assyrians.

Traditionally, Jews light one candle on a menorah and give one gift each night. Hanukkah lasts eight days because after the Maccabees rededicated the Temple, there was only enough oil for the eternal flame to burn one day.

“The miracle was it burned for eight days,” Grossman said.

Latkes are fried in oil to commemorate the oil in the Temple, too.

Selma has a long Jewish history. Many Jewish families owned shops along Broad Street. In fact, the faded names of Jewish families still adorn some buildings around town.

When retail giants became popular, the younger Jewish generation realized there were limited opportunities for small shopkeepers so they sought other careers.

Now, there are only 13 members of the Temple Mishkan Israel, a 110-year-old temple on Broad Street.

While there is not a community-wide Hanukkah celebration, many members still celebrate the holiday in their homes.

Ed Ember, president of the Temple Mishkan Israel congregation, said he will spend Hanukkah with his wife. They will light a candle each night. He said he enjoys lighting the candles and saying the prayers associated with the holiday.

Hannah Berger lights a menorah and places an electric menorah in the window of her house. She is also a member of Temple Beth Or in Montgomery. Every year, she makes latkes and attends a celebration there.

“It’s a holiday that symbolizes freedom,” she said. “It’s a joyous holiday, and the food’s good.”