Seven-year-old Danny Kramer stood in front of his second-grade class, easily recounting a holiday story more than 2,000 years old. The story is one he knows by heart, but it was foreign to many of his classmates.
He told of the great warrior Judah and his army of Maccabees who won freedom over the tyrant King Antiochus and restored the Jerusalem Jewish temple. He barely looked at the words in a book he was holding as he recounted the story of the Jews returning to the defiled temple and finding only enough oil to keep a menorah lit for one day.
"The miracle and reason we celebrate Hanukkah is because the oil lasted for eight days," Danny Kramer said.
With the help of his mother, Stacey, Danny gave his Soda Creek Elementary classmates a lesson about Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
On Friday afternoon, just hours before the eight-day holiday began at sundown, Danny showed his classmates how to light the menorah and play the traditional Jewish dreidel game.
Ever since Danny was in day care, Stacey Kramer has been coming into his classroom to share the story and traditions of Hanukkah.
In the spirit of a celebration of light, shedding light on Jewish traditions makes them less mysterious and more understandable to others, Kramer said.
"I like to share the traditions with my children, and my children like to share their heritage with other people," Kramer said. "I think the season is very much about sharing."
For the second-grade class, that sharing meant playing the dreidel game using M&Ms. The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side: nun, gimel, hay and shin, meaning, "a great miracle happened there."
In the dreidel game, the letters also represent different amounts that can be taken or put back into a pot of money, candy or traditional chocolate coins called gelt.
The beginning of the Jewish New Year, which starts with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most significant religious holiday for Jews and is celebrated in the fall. Hanukkah is more of a minor holiday but over the years has taken on its own importance, and giving gifts was incorporated into the celebration, Kramer said.
"The gift-giving thing came about more for the children," Stacey Kramer said. "It came about to make it a more special holiday."
Kramer also said Hanukkah is one of the most joyous holidays as it celebrates the Jews' victory and freedom.
The Hannukah story begins with the tale of the Maccabees, who after reclaiming the ruined Holy Temple in Jerusalem, found one small jar of oil, enough to light the menorah for one day. Then a miracle occurred. The menorah continued to burn for eight days, the amount of time it took the Jews to make more purified oil.
The eight candles on the menorah, not including the Shamash candle used to light the others, and the eight-day celebration signify the miracle.
Since Friday, Steamboat's Jewish community, Har Mishpacha, has been celebrating the holiday. The celebration started with a Sabbath Service on Friday night led by the group's part-time rabbi, Rabbi Joe Goldman. On Saturday, Goldman took part in a group ski trip on the ski mountain.
Tonight, Har Mishpacha will hold a Hanukkah party from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Olympian Hall. The party is a potluck dinner, with games for children, cookie decorating and a gift exchange.
One of the items served will be potato latkas, potato pancakes fired in oil.
Jane Romberg, who is helping with the party, said food cooked in oil is part of the Hanukkah celebration.
About 90 families make up Har Mishpacha, Romberg said.
Routt County's Jewish community has become more active in the past year with the arrival of Goldman, a retired rabbi from Denver who helps direct and implement adult and youth education programs in Steamboat.
Romberg points to the number of events occurring this weekend, including a movie and discussion held Saturday night and the opportunity this morning for school-aged children to meet with the rabbi.
"When he is up here, we keep (Rabbi Goldman) very busy," Romberg said.
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