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PJTC 2020 Hanukkah Programming  |  Online Hanukkah Resources 


What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah - also known as "The Festival of Lights" and "The Festival of Rededication" - is observed beginning on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev (usually in December, but sometimes in late November). It is a celebration of when the Jewish people of Judea (what is now central Israel) rose up against the Syrian Greeks who had taken over the land, attempting to oppress and assimilate the Jews to Hellenic culture. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jewish forces that revolted against King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. The story tells us that Judah and his followers lit the Temple with only one small bottle of oil, which miraculously lasted for eight days, as they cleansed and rededicated the Temple to Israel's God. The eight days of Hanukkah represent the eight miraculous days of light and restoration of the beloved Temple.

What are the customs and traditions followed on Hanukkah?

The Lighting of the Hanukkiah: To commemorate the burning of the eight nights of oil, each night we light a Hanukkah menorah, or hanukkiah, (an eight-branched candelabrum with one extra branch for the "shamash" candle, the helper candle, which should be higher, lower or in front of the other branches). It is common to confuse the terms "hanukkiah" and "menorah." A menorah is usually a seven branched candelabrum, used to symbolize Judaism and often seen lighting Jewish temples. A hanukkiah is a menorah, specially designed to celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah. The candles are placed in the hanukkiah from right to left, just as Hebrew is read. However, they are lit from left to right. On the first night, one begins by only lighting the shamash, then using the shamash to light the first candle on the left. On the second night, the shamash is lit and used to light the first, then second candles on the left. And, so on, until on the eighth night of Hannukah, all nine candles are lit in full celebration. After placing the candles in the hanukkiah, but before lighting them, two prayers are said (plus one extra prayer only on the first night).

  • Prayer 1: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. / Praised are You,

    Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who made us holy through Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights. Click here to listen to the prayer.

  • Prayer 2: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim la’avoteinu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh. / Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in those ancient days at this season. Click here to listen to the prayer.

  • Prayer 3 (first night only): Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh. / Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season. Click here to listen to the prayer.

Gelt: Gelt is Yiddish for money. It is a Hanukkah tradition to gift gelt to children, and for some, also to teachers. Typically, Hanukkah gelt is a chocolate coin wrapped in metallic paper. Though, some families also gift actual coins/money.

Playing Dreidel: A beloved children's tradition of Hanukkah is playing the game, dreidel (sevivon in Hebrew). The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham (pronounced "ness gah-DOHL high-YAH shahm"), which means “a great miracle happened there." Want to learn how to play? Below are the rules, and you can also watch this quick video!

  • Every player starts out with the same number of "pieces" (this can be gelt, pennies, pretzel sticks, rocks, pirate coins, paper get the point)
  • Each player begins the game by placing one piece in the "pot" (the center of the game space). Any time the pot is empty or only has one piece left, every player, again, contributes one piece to the pot.
  • Players take turns rolling the dreidel one time each, taking action according to the chart above.
  • When one player has all of the pieces, the game is over.

Eating Fried Foods: To further commemorate the legendary bottle of oil, we eat foods that are fried in oil. Not the healthiest of traditions, but it is a special time of year when loading up on latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) is a good thing. [HOT TIP! When making latkes in your home, it can really make everything smell like fried oil...everything. But, assuming you aren't serving anyone with allergies, using peanut oil significantly reduces the lingering smell.] Click here to jump to our Hanukkah resources, which includes some yummy recipes.

Communal Observance: Since Hanukkah is not a biblically ordained holiday, there are generally no temple services dedicated to the holiday. While a minor religious holiday, it has become a beloved holiday because of its festive nature and its symbolism as a public recognition that the Jewish people will not be oppressed nor give up their freedom to worship. Some communal traditions include:

  • Public hanukkiah lightings and celebrations
  • Singing of Hanukkah themed songs
  • Gift giving

Common Phrases: As with many Jewish holidays, there are particular greetings that are common during Hanukkah. Below are a few:

  • "Hanukkah sameach!" - Happy Hanukkah! Pronounced hah-noo-kah sah-may-ahk. (sameach = happy)
  • "Chag sameach!" - The generic "happy holiday!" in Hebrew. Pronounced hag sah-may-ahk. (chag = holiday)
  • "Chag Urim Sameach!" - Happy Festival of Lights! Pronounced hag uh-rim sah-may-ahk. (urim = lights)


Attire: This depends on you, your plans and your own family traditions. Some people like to stay casual, while others dress up for the occasion - particularly when celebrating with others. Some people like to dress in blue and white to represent Israel's flag colors. In recent years, some have taken on the "ugly sweater" tradition that showed up during Christmas, where people mock themed holiday sweater-wearing and arrive at celebratory events wearing the tackiest Hanukkah-themed sweater they can find or make.


The Significance of Hanukkah

Hanukkah's core is a celebration of our ancestors' fight against religious oppression and of the Divine miracle that lit the Temple in Jerusalem, allowing Judah and his followers to restore and reclaim it for the Jewish people. The holiday is a symbol of Zionism in today's world as well as a reminder that religious freedom is worth fighting for, protecting and even rebuilding when necessary.


2020 PJTC Member Programming

Give a gift to a congregant, get a gift from a congregant! Let's get to know each other and be thoughtful in what we do for each other...


  • Sign up as an individual or group by December 4, sharing your contact info and a personal profile (so that your gift giver can learn more about you and be more thoughtful in their gift giving). Sign up link was emailed to congregants on November 11. If you did not receive the email, please contact Melissa Levy at
  • On December 8, you will be assigned a PJTC member group or individual. And, someone else will be assigned YOU! (Youth who sign up as individuals will be assigned to other youth.)
  • During Hanukkah (December 10-17), based on their personal profile, you will spend up to $18 doing something nice for the person you were assigned. This can be a physical gift, a charitable donation combined with a thoughtful action, or anything your creativity and their profile inspires.
  • Enjoy the gift of giving…and the gift you get, too!

Go BIG while you stay safe this Hanukkah! We have created 8 nights' worth of fun and community celebration that are open to all ages of PJTC's congregation. Links to join and register for activities will be emailed to PJTC members the week of Nov. 30, 2020. Email us if you do not receive them, or contact our Director of Congregational Engagement, Melissa Levy, if you have any questions.

Choose your own adventure...

JUDAISM IN THE HOME KICK-OFF  THURS. 12/10 at 6:00pm: Share your Hanukkah and tzedakah traditions & review Hanukkah blessings, Zoom led by Rabbi Aimee and Melissa Levy.

#PJTCBringsInTheLight  FRI. 12/11: Join the challenge! Post a photo of you/your family with your Hanukkiah and answer the question: How are you bringing light to those around you this holiday season? (Tag others to join in & don’t forget the hashtag!)

HANUKKAH IN YOUR PAJAMAKKAHS  SAT. 12/12 at 5:30pm: Havdalah/Hanukkah candle lighting via Zoom, followed by Hanukkah Trivia Kahoot and a Hanukkah-themed scavenger hunt. Sponsored by USY & Kadima. For all ages.

HANUKKAH VIRTUAL ESCAPE ROOM - "QUEST FOR THE LOST FLAME"  SUN. 12/13 at 3:30pm: Explore the sites, people and moments that helped create the holiday while putting your puzzle-solving skills to the test! Create your own team of 4-6 or join with others, including Rabbi Carrier! View the trailer here.

SPICE UP YOUR LATKE GAME  MON. 12/14 at 4:00pm: Nancy Carlton leads a cooking session “Latkes 2 Ways.” Cook while Nancy cooks, or watch closely then try it later with the recorded session. Click here to view the list of supplies/ingredients you will need.

DECK THE HALLS WITH LOTS OF LATKES (SOCIAL HALL)  TUES. 12/15 at 7:30pm: Join us for candle lighting, followed by a sharing of memories & realities of being a Jewish kid at this time of year. We encourage all ages to join this discussion. 

SIERRA MADRE / ROSH CHODESH  WED. 12/16 at 4:00pm: Young families take a walk, one page at a time, through the story “A Hat For Mrs. Goldman” in Sierra Madre’s Memorial Park./ at 5:30pm: A giant menorah lighting in Downtown Sierra Madre with Cantor Ruth (also available for viewing on PJTC's Facebook Live. / at 7:30pm: Join Sisterhood for a Hanukkah-themed Rosh Chodesh.

COMMUNITY CANDLE LIGHTING AT PJTC  THURS. 12/17 at 6:00pm: Outdoor community candle lighting & Hanukkah sing-a-long at PJTC. Bring your Hanukkiah to light, or drive through to enjoy the light created by others. Pick up free jelly donuts from PJTC’s Mens Club on your way out! Reserve your socially distanced table (masks required).


Online Resources

​​​Getting Ready for Hanukkah:

Song & Prayer:

Kids Corner

Wed, October 20 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782