Menorah lighting warms hearts at Lake House

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By Stephanie DeCamp

Hanukkah is not among the most prominent holidays on the Jewish calendar, but it's local importance was obvious last Wednesday evening when scores of residents turned out for the annual menorah lighting at Evergreen Lake. 

"It's a festive season," said Rabbi Levi Brackman, co-founder of Judaism in the Foothills and an organizer of the event last week. "It's Christmas and it's Hanukkah, and all across the country it means the holiday season." 

Rabbi Jaime Arnold of Beth Evergreen agreed. 

"The biggest misconception about Hanukkah is that it's like a Jewish Christmas," he said. "Its importance in the Jewish calendar is greatly overestimated; it's really a minor holiday.

"It's a festival of light and miracles. In the temple, the priests always had to keep a menorah lit; it was kind of like a night light, but built with seven branches for the seven days, as specified in the Torah. It was important, because when the temple was destroyed, it came down, but when it was reclaimed, it was always kept lit." 

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle at the holy temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C., when a day's supply of oil kept the eternal flame of the temple menorah burning for eight days. The modern holiday begins on the new moon closest to the winter solstice.

According to Sally Korff, who also helped organize the event, surviving the long night in the light of god's presence is something the Jewish people are very familiar with. 

"What I always say is, 'They tried to kill us, we always won, so let's eat,' " she said, referring to the traditional potato pancakes, called latkes, mady by Sheindy Brackman. "So there's always some food around a Jewish holiday, and there's always a war around the world, so we always celebrate winning with eating."

The Lake House was lit with the warmth of conversations, running children, and Arnold's strumming of the guitar, leading classics ranging from "Dreidel Dreidel" to "This Little Light of Mine." The pancakes were made with lots of oil to represent the oil in the menorah.

There were also doughnuts donated by King Soopers, Arnold pointed out, along with the traditional tops called dreidels for the kids and a tile-painting project. The tiles will eventually adorn a community bench; each tile cost $10 to paint, and each was decorated in the artist's vision of light. 

The annual menorah lighting at Evergreen Lake typically takes place outside, Korff said, with indoor festivities afterward. But this year's near-zero temperatures fueled a decision to move the entire event into the Lake House.

A representative from each of the sponsoring groups traditionally lights each candle, starting from the middle, she said. The sponsors included the Mountain Resource Center, Center for the Arts Evergreen, the Canyon Courier, the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, both rabbis, Go Paint and the chamber of commerce.