Electrifying the season of light

Eight days of Hanukkah begin Sunday evening


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Using metres of copper tape and hundreds of LED lights, Monica Nieman hopes to generate some interest in the ancient miracle of Hanukkah.

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Using metres of copper tape and hundreds of LED lights, Monica Nieman hopes to generate some interest in the ancient miracle of Hanukkah.

“I’m trying to make more connections between topics and hobbies people are interested in and Judaism,” explains the program and engagement co-ordinator at Congregation Etz Chayim.

“The holiday is all about the miracle of the oil lasting and the light that it generated.”

The eight days of Hanukkah begin on the evening of Sunday, Dec. 18, with the last candle lit on Sunday, Dec. 25.

Participants at the synagogue’s Light the Night dinner scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19 at 123 Matheson Ave. E., will hear a presentation on electricity and circuits from the Manitoba Electrical Museum and then build their own two-dimensional circuit menorahs powered by a watch battery, says Nieman.

“We will learn how a circuit is built to light up a room, because the holiday is all about the light,” she explains.

A menorah is a candle holder with space for nine candles — one for each day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and the ninth one for the servant candle used to light the others. The festival commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE after Jews revolted against their occupiers. When they entered the temple, they discovered the one-day supply of oil for burning the temple’s eternal candle lasted for eight days, which is considered the miracle of Hanukkah.

Whether the lights are electric, oil or a candle, lighting them in a community setting remains an essential aspect of the festival, says Rabbi Avrohom Altein, executive director of Chabad-Lubavitch Winnipeg, which holds a community celebration 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18 at 1845 Mathers Ave. Premier Heather Stefanson is one of several dignitaries invited to participate in the community candle lighting ceremony on the first night of Hanukkah.

“We have community celebrations, and everyone takes the idea (of Hanukkah) home and everyone lights their own candles,” says Altein of how the light is spread metaphorically.

As the only Jewish holiday solely celebrating religious freedom, Hanukkah can have meaning well beyond the Jewish community as others witness the power of lighting a candle against the darkness, suggests Altein.

“It deals more with the darkness in a metaphorical way, the darkness of tyranny and oppression,” says Altein of how Jews mark the defeat of their occupiers more than two thousand years ago.

The city’s Jewish organizations collaborate in a community-wide candle lighting at Asper Jewish Community Campus, 123 Doncaster St., 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, also the longest night of the year.

“Every Jewish organization in the community is like a candle on their own and together we can shine a brighter light in the community,” says Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

“Together we are stronger.”

Zentner suggests combating the darkness in the world not only with a candle flame, but by helping a neighbour in need, donating to a food bank, or standing up when others are unjustly treated.

“One single action from a single individual can have a profound impact on someone and their family,” he says.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we have the power of shining a little light in each other’s dark moments?”

Altein looks forward to the first large Hanukkah event organized by Chabad since 2019, and for the inspiration and hope it may provide to participants.

“I remember the last few years (before COVID) when everyone though they were living in a solid world, but now it feels like it is crumbling,” says Altein of how the world has changed.

“All that counts is (doing) a little bit of good. That’s what stays when everything else has crumbled.”

For a complete listing of Winnipeg’s Hanukkah events, check out the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s website at

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Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

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