About this blog:

Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
RSS feed of this blog

Local residents celebrate Hanukkah with meals, food drive


For years, Samantha Levine has gone to her grandmother’s house to celebrate Hanukkah with her family.

But this year, she’ll be celebrating with other Jewish 20- and 30-somethings in the Fredericksburg area who might otherwise be on their own for the holiday.

Levine, a member of a new club for the age group at Beth Sholom Temple in Stafford County, will be hosting a Hanukkah party today for those not with their families at the start of the eight-day celebration.

The focus of the party, she said, will be on traditional food such as potato latkes, matzo-ball soup and sufganiot (doughnuts). Levine will also give out traditional chocolate coins, or gelt.

Levine said she doesn’t mind spending the holiday here, rather than in New York with her family.

“It’s not a very major Jewish holiday,” she said. “There are no restrictions, and most of it is during a workweek.”

From a spiritual perspective, Hanukkah’s significance is minor compared to the Jewish high holidays Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Those holidays are celebrated with more-solemn reflection, while Hanukkah is observed with gifts and gatherings.

Hanukkah, which starts today and lasts eight days, is the Festival of Lights commemorating the day the Jews reclaimed the holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. It traditionally is celebrated by lighting a menorah, eating foods cooked in oil, and giving gelt (money) to children.

Levine said she is excited to have people from different cultural backgrounds coming to her party. Members come from a variety of different places, including Russia. Other members are from various places in the United States.

“Everyone is bringing their own traditions with them,” she said.

The group Levine is hosting began two months ago as a way to reach out to people of similar age and faith in the community. They regularly have dinners and parties, such as the one Levine is hosting for group members for Hanukkah.

On Dec. 14, Beth Sholom Temple will hold its first “Shabbanukah,” combining Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, and Hanukkah on Friday, at 6:30 p.m. The gathering, featuring a chicken and latke dinner, will benefit the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

Members can attend for $5 or five items of food for the food bank. Families pay $10 or bring 10 items.

Non-members who would like to attend will be charged $8 per person or 8 items for the food bank. Non-member families should bring $13 per family or 13 food items.

To register for the Shabbanukkah dinner or to join the 20- and 30-something group at Beth Sholom Temple, contact Fern daSilva at the temple office at 540/ 373-4834 or email ta@bstof


Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976;