Hanukkah candles lit up the night on Sunday as community members gathered at Congregation Beit Am in Corvallis for the Jewish Festival of Lights. The first of eight nights was filled with singing, games, jelly-filled donuts and overall schmoozing.
“Obviously we would want to do a huge Hanukkah blowout because we didn’t want people to light candles at home alone again this year,” Rabbi Phil Bressler said. “Some people felt comfortable coming out so we’re trying a hybrid event.”
The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians.
About 20 people lit their Hanukkiahs in person, and nine others lit theirs over Zoom. People shared their Hanukkiah origin stories with the group, celebrating how they had come from far and wide but were now together in the same place.
The Hanukkiah, which is similar to a menorah but has nine candlesticks instead of seven, is placed from right to left and lit from left to right, with one candle being added each night of Hanukkah at sundown.
“Getting together with family and friends felt more important this year,” community member Jill Stein said. She and her husband, Martin Storksdieck, brought their son to celebrate the holiday and learn about the story of Hanukkah.
Bressler brought his guitar and led the group in prayers and joyful music. Voices rang out through masks, and people clapped their hands as traditional songs in Hebrew and English were sung for the first time since last year.
“Every time I hear people singing in a room with me I have a new appreciation for it after two years without,” Bressler said.
Beit Am is a pluralistic synagogue, which means it welcomes people of all different sects of Judaism.
“We try to meet everybody’s needs,” Amy Buccola, community member at Beit Am, said. “This place is filled with a lot of joy.”
The congregation moved into a new building in August of 2019, from its old building on 36th Street to the new one on Circle Boulevard, and this is the second year holding nightly candle lightings over the holiday. Last year, each night was celebrated over Zoom.
After the candles had been lit and songs had been sung, it was time to dig into the sufganiyot, or jelly-filled donuts. Kids spun dreidels — four-sided spinning tops — and read Hanukkah stories while adults caught up after a long time of being apart.
Bressler even created a Hanukkah playlist on Spotify that could be accessed through a QR code, which includes classics like "Oh Hanukkah," "Ma’oz Tzur" and "Sevivon Sov, Sov, Sov."
Beit Am is holding candle lightings each night of Hanukkah at 6:30 p.m. Non-members who would like to participate can do so over Zoom and can contact Susan Howard ahead of time for the link at email@example.com.
Editor's Note: This article has been edited to clarify nonmembers of Beit Am are welcome to participate in Hanukkiah candle-lighting over Zoom.