Personal reflections of Hanukkah from a new member.

At the end of November, we celebrated Hanukkah together in Gloucester. Hanukkah is a special holiday for many and a time for us to come together with family and friends, though for me this was certainly a particularly important Hanukkah, as it was my first being able to celebrate with a community and feel the warmth that was shared.

I am currently going through the conversion course after years of coming to the decision to officially convert to Judaism. This period of waiting and developing was spent without a Jewish community and without opportunities to engage with living Judaism. Thus, each new celebration for me has rituals and events that symbolise a new part of my life. What makes Judaism and its celebrations special is the fact that the rituals and traditions that we celebrate this (and every) year do not lose their meaning with the years.

At the core of our Hanukkah celebration was Rabbi Danny, who led a fantastic retelling of the Hanukkah story, the Maccabees, and how that little bit of oil burned for 8 whole days. As ever, Danny showed his ability to tell stories in a way that brings to life events from centuries ago. The vivid retelling allowed us, as Danny’s stories always do, to identify and to make Judaism a living religion with importance in the modern world. Besides the Hanukkah story, we enjoyed fun and games, such as ‘Jewish Bingo’, where it was fantastic to see all ages joining in together. My complete row of ‘Rachel’, ‘Chuppah’, ‘Latke’, ‘Dreidl’, and ‘Menorah’, followed by a shout of “Oy vey!” brought me some chocolate coins for the party!

Finishing off the celebrations with a lighting all of our Hanukiyot was a beautiful way to bring another year’s festivities to a close, marking the start of 8 days of remembering and candle lighting in our homes.

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