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'Gather people and celebrate': York County celebrates Hanukkah

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Eight days of festivities to celebrate the Jewish community are currently underway — and for the York Jewish Community Center, it's another year of cooking up potato latkes and gathering around the menorah.

The Festival of Lights — or Hanukkah — started Nov. 29 and wraps up Monday.

To celebrate each day, the York JCC has gathered at 5 p.m. with a leader of the York County community to assist in lighting a new candle on the menorah, said Jonah Gellar, York JCC's executive director.

A special part of the uniqueness of the York JCC, he added, is the community that comes together to celebrate. Though the majority of individuals celebrating are Jewish, a small number of non-Jewish residents have come out to help light the menorah too.

“It's really about lighting the menorah with my family," Gellar said. "To have the chance to be together as a family and light the menorah together is very special and certainly something I do not take for granted."

In addition to the nightly menorah lightings, Gellar said the York JCC is fortunate that Hanukkah included Giving Tuesday this year — a global generosity movement focusing on giving to others.

The York JCC, a nonprofit, is seeking donations for its various departments within the center. For example, the aquatics and fitness centers are in need of new equipment.

A full list of all wish list items sought by the York JCC can be found by visiting https://yorkjcc.org/giving-tuesday/.

Five candles of the menorah are lit in celebration of Hanukkah at York Jewish Community Center in York Township, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

This year, the York JCC has an additional menorah located at the front of the center surrounded by dreidels. As part of a fundraising effort, anybody is welcome to take a dreidel home with them — but in its place the York JCC asks they leave a gift card.

Proceeds will go to the nonprofit's family services department to assist in providing food to those who need it, for example, Gellar said.

“Hanukkah is about receiving gifts, and it's also about giving gifts," Gellar said. "So it's nice to see the community involved."

Hanukkah is rooted in Jewish history that goes as far back as the second century. As part of the story, Gellar said a small group of Jewish individuals overcame persecution and found oil to light the synagogue lamp.

The fifth night of Hanukkah is celebrated at York Jewish Community Center in York Township, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“As the stories go, the oil was supposed to last only one day — but it lasted eight nights," he added. “The oil lasted longer, and it brought light to the people, and hope.”

Alongside lighting candles, foods like potato latkes and jelly doughnuts are cooked in oil as a way to honor that history, Gellar said.

Menorah lightings at the York JCC will continue until Monday. Saturday's celebration will happen at 4 p.m., and Sunday's lighting will take place at 4:30 p.m.

“It's a nice time to gather people and celebrate," Gellar said. “Everybody is welcome — anybody can come join us."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at  @tina_locurto. 

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Director of Communications Rebecca Robinson, left, and Vice Chair Dr. Maggie Grotzinger, both of the Harrisburg Jewish Community Foundation of Central PA, lights five candles of the menorah during Hanukkah at York Jewish Community Center in York Township, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. York JCC has invited different groups from surrounding Jewish communities to join in lighting the menorah each of the eight nights of celebration. Dawn J. Sagert photo