Synagogues throughout Western New York will host Friday evening Shabbat services, while also continuing their eight-day celebration of Hanukkah. This year, the rededication of Jewish faith and identity will, by many, be strengthened following a tragic attack at a synagogue not far from Western New York.
In late October, a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people. Cantor Penny Meyer of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo and Amherst personally knows Tree of Life's Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and recently spoke with him.
"It doesn't matter, in a synagogue or a church or in a Kroger grocery store, our world has changed but it doesn't mean that we as a people have changed," Meyer said. "We are renewing our commitment and dedication to one another into who we are as a people and as Jews and as Americans. By showing up, by being present, by not being afraid to light our menorahs."
Meyer said families are encouraged to bring their menorahs to this evening's Shabbat services. When she further explained Hanukkah, she indicated it's a misconception by many that the holiday is in response to the Christmas season. It is not, nor is Hanukkah the most important holy commemoration on the Jewish calendar.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, in defiance of the Seleucid Empire, which attempted to impose Greek culture upon the people. Jews believe a miracle occured, when those seeking to light the Temple's menorah found no more than a small vessel of olive oil available to burn. The menorah remained lit for eight days.
Meyer explained how they teach the miracle to the children of their congregation.
"You have 10 percent of battery life on your iPhone left or your cell phone left and it lasts for eight days. Then they understand the true miracle," she said.
Hanukkah, which began last Sunday evening, continues through Monday at sundown.