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Local TV reporter finds Hanukkah takes on deeper meaning with age

By Staff
LIGHTING THE MENORAH On Sunday evening, Ellen Goldberg will be among millions of Jews worldwide who will light the Menorah in celebration of Hanukkah. During the eight-day holiday, Jewish people light a candle each evening to commemorate the miracle in which a day of oil to light the Menorah burned for eight days. Photo by Paula Merritt/ The Meridian Star.
By Ellen Goldberg/Special to The Star
Dec. 8, 2001
On Sunday evening, I will light the Menorah as millions of Jews around the world do the same.
The lighting of the candles is the principal feature of contemporary Hanukkah celebrations. The story behind the holiday is as follows: Thousands of years ago, a small group of Jews, known as the Maccabees, united to fight for the survival of Judaism among pressure to assimilate. Against incredible odds, the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greeks and recaptured the Jewish temple. But when the Maccabees came to cleanse and rededicate the temple, they found only one small flask of oil to light the Menorah.
Miraculously, as tradition holds, the oil burned for eight days. So, this year, for the 2,166th time, Jews will light candles for eight consecutive evenings to commemorate this miracle.
As a child, the lighting of the Menorah was an exciting and highly anticipated event in my family. My older sister and I would take turns lighting the candles throughout the eight-day holiday. While it was always hard not having a Christmas tree or receiving presents from Santa Claus, I had the bragging rights to eight days of presents. And, just as with Christmas, kids and most adults enjoy Hanukkah for the presents, special foods and the opportunity to gather with family and friends.
For me, it was always important that my childhood friends understood my religion, especially because it was often different from theirs. Growing up among a group of predominantly Christian friends, Hanukkah gave me an opportunity to expose others to the cultures and unique rituals of Judaism. And Hanukkah is the one Jewish holiday most many non-Jews are familiar with.
In my early years, childhood friends often confused the words "Jewish" and "Hanukkah," assuming they meant the same. So yes, on more than one occasion, I've been asked if I was a Hanukkah, rather than a Jew.
As I've matured, Hanukkah has taken on a deeper meaning. For me, Hanukkah is a time to reflect upon my spiritual beliefs and celebrate my being "different." As I continue to live and work among a predominantly Christian community, I celebrate the fact that I have maintained my religious upbringing and teachings, although sometimes difficult. Just as the Maccabees refused to submit to the rule of the Syrian Greeks, during Hanukkah, Jews like myself, take time out to celebrate maintaining their faith amongst difficult odds.
Although Hanukkah begins Sunday, for most Jews, the holiday's meaning resonates year-round. Every time someone comments, "You're the first Jewish person I've met" or "You are the only Jewish person I know (which happens to me quite frequently in Meridian)," rather than feeling uncomfortable or out of place, I feel privileged to carry on the unique and special traditions of Judaism.
Ellen Goldberg is a reporter for WMDN TV-24.