Har Mishpacha to host Steamboat community celebration of Hanukkah
December 20, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 'Tis the season for tradition, and whether it's decorating a coniferous tree or lighting eight symbolic candles, it's the rituals performed alongside family and friends that are at the heart of the holidays.
For Steamboat resident Bert Halberstadt, president of the local Jewish congregation Har Mishpacha, his Christmas Sunday won't include a tree. But he will say a traditional blessing and light the sixth candle on the menorah in observance of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
"Whether you're Methodist or Catholic or a Jew, ritual is the binding glue that holds people in a tie to the spiritual," he said. "It's the sense that there are a million people around the world doing the same thing that you are."
And after that ceremony, he will go out to a Chinese dinner with his friends and family from the Jewish community. It's not a Christmas ham, but it's tradition all the same.
In celebration of the annual Hanukkah festival, which overlaps Christmas this year, Har Mishpacha will host a community event at 6 p.m. Friday at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Following in the celebratory and uplifting tradition of Hanukkah, event organizer Paula Salky said the event will be a party for all ages.
"We wanted to fix a Steamboat-style Hanukkah," she said. "I thought it'd be fun to have the (Steamboat) Smokehouse cater it and make it a little less formal and make it more of a gathering."
Tickets are $15 for Har Mishpacha members and $20 for nonmembers. Tickets for children cost $8 for members and $12 for nonmembers. Children younger than 5 are admitted free.
There will be games and crafts for children, drinks for adults and traditional potato latkes made by members of the congregation.
Everyone is encouraged to bring and light menorahs, and there will be a lighting ceremony and recognition of the Sabbath, which is at sundown Friday.
About 65 families belong to Har Mishpacha, Halberstadt said, with several hundred friends of the congregation who aren't members but otherwise are involved.
Many members and participants in Har Mishpacha programs are second-home owners looking to find a connection to their heritage away from home.
Sharing the light
Hanukkah began at sundown Tuesday and lasts through Dec. 28.
A candle is lit each night to symbolize the story of how, thousands of years ago, one day's worth of oil burned for eight days when Jewish troops attempted to purify the Temple of Jerusalem.
The festival isn't one of the high holidays like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, but because of the lunar calendar, it tends to fall near Christmas, making it an integral part of the holiday season's festive joy.
"It's fraught with meaning, but it's not solemn," Halberstadt said. "Because it recalls a positive moment in our people's history."
Salky said the holiday is family-oriented and a good opportunity to share with children the history of Judaism. And of course, there are eight days of presents.
But while Hanukkah preserves ancient tradition, Salky said the rituals also share an important lesson about the present and future.
"When you get older, you think of the light in all of us and sharing that light with one another in our community," she said.
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 907-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com