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ELIZABETH, NJ – Jewish Educational Center students joyously celebrated an ancient tradition Dec.28 when the public lighting of the Menorah took place, marking the fifth day of the age old holiday of Chanukah.

Mayor Bollwage joined the students, faculty, and staff in front of the Elmora Avenue school for this 40-year tradition begun by the school’s founder, Rabbi Teitz. The six-foot replica of the menorah, made of large olive-oil pots, was handmade several years ago by JEC faculty. The ceremony was followed by the distribution of traditional “sufganiot” jelly donuts and singing and dancing by the students.

“Now is a season in general where there is much togetherness regardless of religion,” said JEC Principal Rabbi Uzi Beer. “In Judaism, it is when we show how a little bit of light can light a dark room, as each candle lights the other, extending the light and the love without losing its essence.”   

Chanukah  is also known as the Festival of Lights, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. Before the Temple could be reopened, it had to be cleaned. The lamps needed to be filled with pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest for the menorah, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. Only one flask was found with enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.

Chanukah occurs each year between late November to late December. This year, the holiday began Dec. 24 and ends Jan. 1. 

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