WILKES-BARRE – Two flames flickered outside the Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley to signal the start of Hanukkah on Saturday evening.
One lamp glowed in the center of the menorah and the other at the end on the first night of the Festival of Lights, a commemoration of the retaking of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. by the Maccabees. They defeated the Syrians and rededicated the temple, burning a single cruse of olive oil for eight days.
The tradition continues to this day with the lighting of individual candles or lamps for eight consecutive days and the eating of foods fried in oil, such as latkes, or potato pancakes.
The menorahs displayed publicly and privately hold nine lights, the center one or Shammash is used to light the others.
Approximately 30 people attended the ceremony outside the front entrance of the JCC on South River Street.
Rabbi Zvi Perlman led the group in song with three blessings during the first night.
We like to light up the darkness, Perlman said. As the winter approaches we tend to hibernate and Hanukkah acts as a spiritual awakening.
Many of those attending the ceremony were from the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. They later went inside to sing and light smaller menorahs.
Sydney Roth, a student at Holy Redeemer High School and member of the youth organization, looked forward to gathering with family for a big dinner during the eight-day holiday.
Katie Buyarski of Kingston, a student at Wyoming Seminary and president of the youth organization, enjoyed the food associated with Hanukkah and the time spent with family and friends.
I just like the fact that everyone gets together, Buyarski said.
As part of Hanukkah, the JCC will sponsor the Mayrutz Halapid Ceremony, the running of the torch, on Tuesday. The tradition originated in Israel in 1940 when young men would run to distant cities to light public menorahs. Runners will proceed to the JCC from Temple B'nai B'rith and Temple Israel to light the menorah at approximately 5 p.m.