BALTIMORE -- Jewish families across the world on Thursday lit the first of eight candles on their menorah, a ritual symbolizing light in the darkness.
"Lighting those candles brings a sense of light to the community," Howard Libit, Executive Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council said.
The holiday honors the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem from the Assyrian Greeks back in 160 BC. To commemorate the victory, Jewish fighters used the small bit of oil they had to light a menorah.
Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Howard Libit says the holiday is celebrated for eight days to signify how long the oil kept burning.
"Gifts for children, we celebrate, we play with the dreidels people have seen, we tend to have parties bringing together families to celebrate. Typical foods include potato latkes," Libit said.
With the ongoing turmoil in Israel and a rise in antisemitism in the United States, Chief Arts Officer for Baltimore's Jewish Community Center, Sara Shalva, says Hanukkah's message is particularly relevant this year.
"It's about dedicating holy spaces, it's about celebrating miracles and it's about bringing light to a dark and difficult world," Sara Shalva, Chief Arts Officer of the Jewish Community Center told WJZ.
The Jewish Community Centers will have Hannukah events throughout the week. Libit says they've made sure to have adequate security in place, so Jewish people can feel safe in their celebrations.
"Some people have raised the question, 'Given everything that's going on right now, should we hesitate to have some of these public displays or public menorah lightings?' and I've told them we should not stop one bit," Libit said. "Every religion in this country deserves an opportunity to celebrate their faith."
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