Families gather for Hanukkah

JULIA HOFFMAN, 8, lights a menorah Saturday at a Hanukkah celebration at the First Congregational Church in Grand Junction. Other family members are, from left, Oliver, 11; Forrest, 14; parents Nancy and Ross Hoffman; and Zach, 15.

Potato latkes sizzled in a pan shortly before people started showing up Saturday night for Congregation Ohr Shalom’s annual Hanukkah party.

Blue, white and silver decorations hung above windows and blanketed tables. The children at the party were ready to play games and eat the potluck spread. The traditional latkes are similar to potato pancakes but served with either apple sauce or sour cream.

Hanukkah, a holiday in the Jewish religion, begins today at sundown and lasts for eight nights.

The congregation expected about 80 people for the party in the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church on Fifth Street because of the larger space.

With a Jewish community as small as Grand Junction’s, it can be easy for Hanukkah to receive little attention, especially with the abundance of Christmas decorations, Ohr Shalom member Penny Frankhouser said.

Like many mothers at the party, Nancy Hoffman said she teaches about the holiday at her children’s schools.

She shows classes how to play spin the dreidel, and she gives out chocolate gold coins. She and her husband, Ross, have four children, Julia, 8; Oliver, 11; Forrest, 14; and Zach, 15.

“Sometimes they ask when it (the holiday) starts,” Julia said about her classmates’ questions about Hanukkah. “Some people who are new to the school, they ask what is a Jewish religion.”

Oliver did a presentation at his school about the significance of the menorah, a nine- branch candelabra lit during Hanukkah.

“The Jewish people were being imprisoned,” Oliver stopped there and started over.

“They were fighting for religious freedom,” he continued. “They had a big fight and they burnt down the temple. They had very little oil, enough for one night. But it burned for eight nights still.”

Eight candles on the menorah represent the eight nights of the holiday, and the ninth candle is used to light the others.

Nancy Hoffman said she tries to emphasize service instead of presents to her children.

“We talk about giving to others,” she said. “I’ve tried to minimize the materialistic side.”

The Hoffman family stood together to light their menorah Saturday night. Wearing a blue and black satiny dress, Julia was elected to light the candles.

“Hold it up straight,” her older brother, Zach, coaxed her on how to light the candle.

They all stood in front of a handmade sign Julia made that said “Happy Hanukkah.”


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