Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah in New Braunfels | Community alert
Community members celebrated Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, in the main plaza in downtown New Braunfels on Monday with music, jelly donuts, chocolate gelt, games, and a ceremony. lighting of the menorah.
The event was hosted by the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center in San Marcos and Texas State University. It was the second year of the event.
Jewish and non-Jewish residents gathered for the traditional ceremony representing kindness and light. People sang traditional songs, such as “Maoz Tzur”, “I Have A Little Dreidel” and “Oh Hanukah, Oh Hanukah” and shared kinship ties with other members of the Jewish community while the children ate gelt, which are pieces of chocolate wrapped in gold and silver, and played with spinning tops.
Devora Gleiber played the violin and accompanied the singing of traditional songs.
Rabbi Ari Weingarten, director of the Rohr Chabad Center in San Marcos, who led the ceremony, invited Mayor Rusty Brockman to light the shamash, also known as the aid candle, used to light the other eight candles.
Weingarten then lit two more candles, as Monday commemorates the second night of Chanukah.
Hanukkah is a commemoration of the consecration of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians in the 2nd century BC.
“The Jews living in Israel lived under Syro-Greek rule,” Weingarten said. “They oppressed the Jewish people to the point of not allowing them religious freedom. There was a small group called the Maccabees, people who decided to stand up for what was right and fight the Syro-Greek army. There was no natural way for them to win.
But victory in the battle itself is not necessarily the main reason the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, Weingarten added.
“Sometimes you have to go to war, but that’s not what we celebrate,” he said. “To revive the menorah, they found only one jug of oil that was still sealed. It was going to take eight days to produce the fresh oil and bring it to Jerusalem.
According to the story, the oil burns for eight days, causing the eight days of Chanukah.
“It shows the miracle of God that reciprocates,” Weingarten said. “You did everything for me, so to speak, I’m here for you.” The Hanukkah message is abundant: Religious freedom is what the Maccabees fought for and the light is stronger than darkness. We do not light all eight candles (on the menorah) at the same time. We are doing it gradually because the light has to constantly increase in your spiritual growth.
Robin Schriefer of New Braunfels has expressed her feelings about what the holidays mean to her.
“To me, it’s a reminder that we’ve been around for over 5,000 years, and even though we’re small, we’re powerful,” she said. “This is a time when we can celebrate that, and unfortunately it gets lost in the relation of the time of year to Christmas, but we have our own holidays. It is not a Jewish Christmas. It is a reminder each year that our freedom is precious and our ability to worship however we want is wonderful here in the United States as well as in Israel.
This year Hanukkah began at sunset on Sunday and ends on the evening of December 6.