UTSA Hillel hosts Dec. 4 'Jazzy Chanukah'

By Tim Brownlee
Assistant Director of Public Affairs

(Dec. 2, 2008)--Hillel, the UTSA Jewish student-faculty organization, will host the annual Chanukah holiday celebration, "Jazzy Early Bird Chanukah Party," from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 4 in the University Center Denman Room (2.01.28) on the 1604 Campus. Free and open to the public, the event will include music by the UTSA Jazz Ensemble, traditional Chanukah foods, guest speaker Rabbi Leonardo Bitran and Israeli dance.

Traditional holiday foods served at the party will include potato latkes and dessert delicacies such as safganiot, a traditional doughnut.

Congregation Agudas Achim is the Conservative synagogue serving more than 550 families in San Antonio and South Texas. Rabbi Leonardo Bitran, spiritual leader of Congregation Agudas Achim, will discuss the history and spiritual significance of Chanukah, the procedures for the lighting of the candles on the traditional Chanukah Menorah and the Sephardic (Spanish, North African and South American) customs associated with Chanukah.

Originally from Chile, Bitran came to Congregation Agudas Achim in August 2003. Previously, he served for 11 years as rabbi at Congregation Shaarey Zedek-B'nai Israel Center in the Detroit area. He has served on the executive board of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues and is past president of the Michigan Rabbinical Assembly.

Bitran was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1992. He has a master's degree in Hebrew letters with a major in Talmud and Rabbinics. He received an M.A. degree in economics at the University of Chile.

For more information about the Chanukah party, call (210) 458-2008 or 458-2672.


Chanukah traditions

Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is celebrated for eight days and nights starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (November-December on the Gregorian calendar). In Hebrew, Hanukkah means dedication. On each night of Chanukah, the menorah is lit to commemorate a miracle, which occurred after the Jews proclaimed victory over the Syrian armies in 165 B.C.E.

When Jews (the Maccabbees) came to rededicate the temple, which had been defiled by the Syrians, they found only one small flask of oil with which to light the menorah, a candelabrum used for worship. The flask contained enough oil for one day, yet the lamp burned for eight days, which allowed time to find a new supply of oil. Today, Jews celebrate Chanukah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night to commemorate the eight-day miracle.

Dreidel: The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter inscribed on each side. The letters stand for a miracle that occurred. Each player receives a given number of coins or candy pieces. Before spinning the dreidel, each player puts a fixed proportion of the amount received into the kupah or kitty. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. When the dreidel falls, it will fall on one of the four letters. According to the letter, the following will happen: no win/no lose, take all from the kitty, take half from the kitty or lose what you deposited.

Latkes: The most popular theme in Chanukah dishes is the use of oil, a reminder of the oil at the temple that burned eight days instead of one. Latkes are potato pancakes made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions and flour, then fried in vegetable oil. The texture is crispy on the outside and tender inside. They are served hot and often are served with applesauce or sour cream. The Maccabbee soldiers ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, they didn't eat potato latkes, since potatoes weren't available until the 16th century.

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