The celebration of Hanukkah begins at sundown Sunday, Dec. 22, and Tulsa’s two major synagogues will be hosting events open to the public to mark the beginning of this eight-day remembrance.
Temple Israel will have its ShalomFest Hanukkah Celebration beginning at 4:45 p.m. Sunday at the temple, 2004 E. 22nd Place, just south of Utica Square.
Congregation B’Nai Emunah, 1719 S. Owasso Ave., will hold the Winterlight Chanukah Festival from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Both events are designed to welcome the community.
For Temple Israel, the Hanukkah celebration is part of its expanded series of ShalomFest events, which began earlier this year with a Sukkoh Build and Lawn Party held in conjunction with the Festival of the Booths.
ShalomFest originated about 25 years ago and was a daylong event designed to introduce people to traditions, rituals, music and foods in ways that would demystify Judaism.
“The thing of it is,” said Rabbi Michael Weinstein, the senior rabbi at Temple Israel, “Jewish life happens every day of the year. So I wanted to come up with a way that would allow the community to participate more fully in Jewish life.”
The word “Chanukah” or “Hanukkah” means “dedication” in Hebrew, and the eight-day celebration is in honor of the rededication of Holy Temple during the second century BCE, after Jewish forces drove the Greeks out of Jerusalem.
However, when they went to light the menorah — a candelabrum with seven branches — they discovered they had only enough oil for one night. However, that oil miraculously lasted for eight days, until new oil could be properly prepared.
The Temple Israel event, which will take place outside the temple, will include the lighting of the first candle of Hanukkah, as well as the temple’s rabbis sharing the full story of Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil.
Because oil plays such a central role in the story, Hanukkah is usually celebrated with fried foods, and at the ShalomFest celebrations, participants will be able to sample the delicacy known as “sufganiyot.”
“They’re really jelly doughnuts,” Weinstein said. “We’ll also have hot cocoa, as well as modern and traditional songs performed by our cantor and cantorial soloists. We’ll also have special gifts for all the children who attend.”
At Congregation B’Nai Emunah, the Winterlight Chanukah Festival will have events designed for the entire family, from dancing and singing to inflatables and games, with warm treats and a mass Chanukah candle lighting.