A celebration of Jewish culture and tradition took place Sunday at the Roseburg Public Library as the Umpqua Valley Havurah spent the first day of Hanukkah together.

The party started with food cooked in oil, such as latkes, doughnuts and churros, and ended with dancing and music.

“It’s one of our happier holidays,” Charles Jaye said while wearing a sweater adorned with menorahs, six-pointed stars and the message, “Keep your friends close and your family kosher.”

Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration by Jewish people that commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Assyrian army in 160 B.C. and the rededication of the Temple.

A day’s supply of oil allowed the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem to stay lit for eight days after the victory, which is why the holiday lasts eight days.

“That’s what Hanukkah is about, the return of the light,” Alixe Dancer said. “Tonight is the beginning of the light coming back and the night being shorter.”

Dancer also talked about another part of Hanukkah during the festivities Sunday — the story of Judith.

According to the story, Judith fed the King of Babylon a salty cheese which led him to drink a lot of wine and caused him to fall into a deep sleep. A sober Judith then took his sword and sliced off his head, causing the Assyrians to flee the city.

On Sunday, people from the Jewish fellowship lit their menorah, a nine-branch candle holder, starting on the right side. One candle is separated from the rest on a higher branch and used to light one candle each day while blessings are said.

There were also games for the children, who were challenged to create a six-pointed Star of David from two five-pointed stars.

Children also recreated menorahs using colorful tape and enjoyed eating star-shaped cookies and chocolate coins.

Bob and Selma Baird of Bob’s Looney Balloons came to create balloon animals and structures for the children. They also placed a balloon dreidel on each table in celebration of the holiday.

Dreidel is a game that is played with a four-sided spinning top. Each side has a Hebrew letter —nun, gimel, hei, shin— that stand for the phrase “Nes gadol haya shaam,” which means “A great miracle happened here.”

About 30 people showed up to participate in the Hanukkah festivities, which also included a performance from the band Multiple Personalities.

The group performed both traditional Hebrew songs as well as English versions, while Dancer led the group in traditional dances.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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