Hanukkah in Hackney: Jewish community begin celebrations with menorah lighting

A candle on the menorah is lit every night of Hanukkah Pic: Robert Couse-Baker

With the largest Charedi Orthodox Jewish population in Europe and one of the biggest outside of Israel and New York, Hackney’s Hanukkah celebrations which start this weekend are gearing up to be spectacular.

There are approximately 30,000 Charedi Orthodox Jewish people in the borough, predominantly living in Stamford Hill. The Jewish community makes up 7 per cent of the population of the borough.

The eight-day-long celebration commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, the place from which it is believed divine powers emanated to the world, at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 2nd century BCE. 

This year Hanukkah falls on December 18 to 26, and will see Hackney’s Jewish community come together to put on events and initiatives to support its Jewish community.

There will be a menorah lighting at the Town Hall, tomorrow, December 18, organised by the council. Visitors can expect performances by Simon Marks Jewish Primary School Choir whilst they sip hot drinks and enjoy doughnuts.

New Stoke Newington Shul, a Jewish community practicing Masorti Judaism, are hosting a ‘Pre Chanuka celebration programme’ on December 11. It will feature children’s workshops, brunch, and a talk followed by a discussion.

Howard Robinson, co-chair of the group, told Eastlondonlines the past couple of years have been “difficult” so they are “excited to be able to bring members of our community together in a fun and dynamic way.”

“Chanukah is a time of fun, hope and feeling part of something and we’re doing our best as a community to embody those themes,” he added.

Chizuk, a mental health organisation for the Orthodox Jewish community, will continue to offer support for vulnerable people during the holiday season, which can be a difficult period for some.

Batya, citizen advocate for the group, told ELL: “Over the holiday period, both Jewish, other faiths and secular, we will continue to offer support 24/7 support to our regular service users; and daytime support to other callers.”

Stamford Hill Library is putting on a craft workshop for children on December 13 from 4-5pm. To get children from all backgrounds involved in the celebrations, they are giving them the chance to make their own Star of David paper garland or dreidel.

At home, many Jewish families will celebrate by lighting their own menorah. One candle per night of Hanukkah is lit from left to right, the same way Hebrew is read.

They may also play dreidel games and eat special foods like sufganiyot, which are similar to jam donuts, and latkes, a type of fried potato pancake.

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