Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Early start to Hanukkah

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He's not Jewish, but that didn't stop Bob Hilderman from figuring out how to build a menorah just in time for Hanukkah.

Actually, Hilderman and his team of handy helpers at the Empress Street Home Depot plan to assist young builders in constructing dozens of these traditional Jewish candelabras at a children's workshop Sunday afternoon.

"They'll assemble the wood pieces and paint it if they want to," explains Hilderman, who designed the project specifically for Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27.

At the request of Rabbi Boruch Heidingsfeld of the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Learning Centre, Hilderman designed an easy-to build menorah out of wood and copper end caps, usually used for plumbing, but also just the right size to hold a candle.

"Some people may not have a menorah, but if they make it themselves, they're more likely to use it," explains Heidingsfeld of the free hands-on workshop for children ages five to 12.

If it seems a bit early to be thinking of Hanukkah, that's because this year the holiday falls at the earliest possible date. For Canadians, that means lighting the first candle just days after the Grey Cup.

For our neighbours to the south, the first full day of Hanukkah falls on Thursday, Nov. 28, which is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. That overlap of holidays prompted American social media marketer Dana Gitell to coin the term Thanksgivukkah to describe the rare hybrid holiday.

Up here in Winnipeg, the early date could mean less severe winter weather during the eight days of Hanukkah, making some of the outdoor events just a bit easier to bear, says the Australian-born Heidingsfeld.

"It's really neat that it comes a little earlier in the (winter) season, so we can be outside," for events, he says.

On Sunday, Dec. 1, Heidingsfeld and members of Chabad-Lubavitch plan to attach battery-powered menorahs onto the roofs of their vehicles to drive around River Heights and Tuxedo, two neighbourhoods with high numbers of Jewish families.

"We're giving thanks and letting people know about the festival," he says about the reason for the public -- and portable -- display of lights.

Rena Elbaze hopes her display at the food court at St. Vital Centre on Sunday will have the same effect. She'll be handing out recipes, samples of the sufganiout, a Jewish jam-buster eaten at Hanukkah, and provide general information about the upcoming holiday.

"Sometimes (a mall display) is not as intimidating as walking inside a Jewish institution," explains the Jewish engagement specialist for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

"It's also a way of creating Jewish pride. There's so much out there during the Christmas season, and it's good for Jewish children to see their holidays in public."

The federation sponsors an annual community candle-lighting event at their campus at 123 Doncaster Ave., with the first candle lit at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Large or small, lighting the menorah -- or hanukiah -- is meant to be a communal event, explains Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.

"You're not supposed to light these candles in private. Put them in the window so the miracle can be shared," he says.

"It's a holiday of great hope in the face of not such hopeful odds. That's been the Jewish existential situation during much of our history."

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 D12

History

Updated on Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 8:37 AM CST: added photo

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