“The celebration of light is open to everyone, not just Jewish people,” said Avrohom Itkin of Chabad Lubavitch of Ulster County, inviting the public to the menorah-lighting at the Woodstock Village Green to commemorate the first and last nights of Hanukkah. On Sunday, December 2, and Sunday, December 9, events will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will include latkes, apple cider, music, and a Hanukkah gelt drop, in which the fire department will sprinkle down the traditional foil-wrapped chocolate coins.
Chabad is an orthodox Jewish movement devoted to educating and supporting Jewish people worldwide. On both Sundays, Chabad members will light tiki torches in honor of the Maccabees, Jewish rebel warriors of the first century BCE. Having won back the Jerusalem temple, they were able to rededicate it through the miracle of a day’s worth of lamp oil persisting for eight days.
On the six nights between the two Chabad ceremonies, there will be no official event on the town green, and the menorah will be lit with light bulbs instead of torches. Gifts for children on both Sundays will include light-up dreidels, the four-sided spinning tops that are the basis for an ancient game played at Hanukkah. Candles and menorahs, the branched candle-holders, will be given out to people who need them for home use. Other events will be held at senior residences in Kingston, and on Friday, December 7, Chabad is chartering the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express, offering half-price rides from Kingston Plaza at 8 p.m. Latkes will be served to passengers.
When the weather is fine, the menorah ceremonies at the green usually attract 75 to 100 people. Particularly this year, in the wake of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Itkin said people need to celebrate together. “A lot of our freedoms are being threatened. Some people are scared to show they are Jewish, fearing it’s dangerous, but it’s just the opposite. It’s important to show we are proud of our religion and proud to live in such a great country.”
Chabad of Ulster County will hold menorah-lighting ceremonies at the Woodstock town green on Sunday, December 2, and Sunday, December 9, at 3:30 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.chabadulstercounty.org. To book a ride on the Hanukkah Express, go to https://www.catskillmountainrailroad.com/excursions/chanukah-express.