Tracey Tong/metro Ottawa
Amid the music, lights, presents and trees, it’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t the only holiday at this time of year.
Ottawa’s Jewish community is currently celebrating Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights — an eight-day commemoration of the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greek Army, in 165 B.C. This year, 14,000 Jewish people in Ottawa will observe the holiday from Dec. 4 through to Wednesday.
Although Hanukkah is one of the best-known Jewish holidays to the non-Jewish population, it is not, contrary to popular belief, one of the larger Jewish holidays of the year.
“Non-Jews tend to identify it more,” said Rabbi Dovid Burger. “They identify with this time of year and they drag us into it.
“There are several holidays during the year, and some of them carry equal or more weight than Hanukkah.”
There is a gift-giving aspect to the holiday, Burger said. Gifts of money are given to children to encourage them to be excited about education or Torah studies.
Approximately 200 children and their families attended the first annual Channukah Silly Olympics at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre yesterday — billed as an event to educate both children and adults, said Rachel Goldbaum, one of the organizers.
“It doesn’t matter what their affirmation is — whether they’re orthodox or unaffiliated or conservative or reform, this is a chance for people to get together,” said Gail Lieff, the youth-holiday programs manager for Soloway JCC.
This week, members of the Jewish community carry out a number of traditions, said Rabbi Zischa Shaps. From a ritual perspective, every night, people light the number of lights on the menorah to correspond with the days of Hanukkah, said Shaps.
One of many