Hanukkah began on Tuesday, December 16 this year and will continue its eight-day progression through Tuesday, December 23. The Jewish Congregation of New Paltz will hold their annual potluck Hanukkah party in celebration at the Jewish Community Center at 30 North Chestnut Street this Sunday, December 21 at 4 p.m. In addition to the (vegetarian) dishes brought by members of the congregation to share, the event will feature plenty of latkes made by the center’s own “famous Latketeers.”
“They make pretty good latkes,” says Rabbi Bill Strongin of the group of men who meet every year in the community center to whip up a giant batch of the tasty treats in the center’s industrial-sized kitchen.
Made with shredded potato, onion, egg and breadcrumbs or matzah, latkes are a tradition at Hanukkah. The oil that the crispy potato pancakes are fried in symbolizes the miracle of Hanukkah, when a menorah that was lit with a small amount of oil that should have only lasted a day burned for eight days as the Maccabees rededicated their defiled holy temple in Jerusalem after their victory over the Syrian-Greeks. And the potatoes and onions? One folk proverb says that latkes serve the purpose of teaching that as wonderful as miracles are, we can’t wait for them to happen; we have to feed our bodies and nourish our souls in order to work toward our goals and live fulfilling lives.
Music at the party will be supplied by the congregation’s choir, The Chai Notes, with recorded music for when the choir is not singing. Kids will find lots of activities, crafts and games to play, including the traditional spinning of the dreidel, and the Judaica Shop will be open for gift purchasing.
But the highlight of the event is the community candle lighting, says Rabbi Bill. “Every family brings their menorahs and we all light them together. There could be as many as 50 to 100 menorahs all being lit at the same time. We also have a big menorah at the center on behalf of the community.”
The Hanukkah party has been held in New Paltz for years (the congregation was founded in 1964). New attendees are always welcome. And it’s always held in the late afternoon, says Rabbi Bill, so that the candles can be lit at the appropriate time, at sunset. Hanukkah is sometimes referred to as “the festival of lights” for the symbolic burning of the eight candles.
For more information, call 255-9817 or visit www.jewishcongregationofnewpaltz.org.