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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2007

Hanukkah lights up the season


There is one element of Hanukkah that sets it apart from all other Jewish holidays, according to Rabbi Yossi Shemtov of Chabad House-Lubavitch.

"It is the only commandment we have where the whole focus is to publicize the miracle," the rabbi said.

That means Chabad House will go to great lengths to tell the world about the small jar of oil that had enough lamp oil to burn for just one night, but which lasted for eight.

The miracle that is remembered during Hanukkah occurred in 165 B.C. when the Jews celebrated a victory over their Syrian-Greek oppressors.

The United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo also plans a high-profile celebration, with Hanukkah Palooza! and the Northwest Ohio Book Fair tomorrow at Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim in Sylvania.

Jews around the world will light one candle per night for eight nights during Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, which starts at sundown Tuesday and continues through Dec. 12.

Chabad House will kick things off with festivities in one of the most popular gathering spots in Toledo, the food court of the Westfield Franklin Park Mall.

It will be the 20th year for Hanukkah in the Mall, which starts at 6:30 p.m. with the lighting of the first candle atop a nine-foot-tall menorah - the largest in Toledo.

Rabbi Shemtov also will be publicizing the holiday by driving around town with a menorah - lighted with electric bulbs - atop his minivan. And a large, lighted menorah will be displayed on the lawn of Chabad House at the corner of Nantucket Drive and Sylvania Avenue.

"This really is our opportunity to share the beauty of our tradition with the world," he said.

"There are many laws concerning Hanukkah, and almost all the laws revolve around making it public," Rabbi Shemtov said. "That's why we put the menorah by the window, and we do it at night. Why? So people will see it.

"We can't put it above 30 feet above the ground. If we put it in the fifth-floor window of a building, who's going to see it? We're not allowed to put it on the floor, nobody's going to see it there, either. We have to burn it for at least half an hour for people to see it. And it all revolves around the idea that we're not alone, that there's a supreme being."

Hanukkah Palooza! begins at 11 a.m. tomorrow at The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim, 6453 Sylvania Ave., with a performance by Jewish musician Sheldon Law.

Immediately following the concert, a Latke Fest will take place at Congregation B'nai Israel, at 6525 Sylvania Ave.

Hanukkah Palooza! is free of charge and open to all members of the community.

Rene Rusgo, director of Jewish Community Programs for the UJC, said it has become a "must-attend event" for all Toledo-area Jews.

The Northwest Ohio Jewish Book Fair continues through Thursday at The Temple-Shomer Emunim.

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