Chemical City Chanukah: Flint-based organization brings Jewish holiday traditions to Midland – Midland Daily News

Posted By on December 28, 2019

Flint-based organization brings Jewish holiday traditions to Midland

mitchell kukulka, mitchell.kukulka@mdn.net

Greg Kleynberg of Bay City, right, chats with Shainie Weingarten, foreground, as he stands with his grandchildren, Eli Cicci, 6, center, and Maya Cicci, 9, left, during a Hanukkah celebration, hosted by Chabad of Eastern Michigan, Monday, Dec. 23 at the Midland Mall. Guests enjoyed latkes, music and the lighting of the menorah. (Katy Kildee/kkildee@mdn.net)

Greg Kleynberg of Bay City, right, chats with Shainie Weingarten, foreground, as he stands with his grandchildren, Eli Cicci, 6, center, and Maya Cicci, 9, left, during a Hanukkah celebration, hosted by Chabad

Photo: (Katy Kildee/kkildee@mdn.net)

Greg Kleynberg of Bay City, right, chats with Shainie Weingarten, foreground, as he stands with his grandchildren, Eli Cicci, 6, center, and Maya Cicci, 9, left, during a Hanukkah celebration, hosted by Chabad of Eastern Michigan, Monday, Dec. 23 at the Midland Mall. Guests enjoyed latkes, music and the lighting of the menorah. (Katy Kildee/kkildee@mdn.net)

Greg Kleynberg of Bay City, right, chats with Shainie Weingarten, foreground, as he stands with his grandchildren, Eli Cicci, 6, center, and Maya Cicci, 9, left, during a Hanukkah celebration, hosted by Chabad

Chemical City Chanukah:Flint-based organization brings Jewish holiday traditions to Midland

On Monday, dozens of people from Midland's Jewish population gathered around an oversized menorah set up in the Midland Mall to celebrate the second night of the eight days of Hanukkah.

Monday's ceremony was performed by Rabbi Yisroel Weingarten of the Chabad House-Lubavitch of Eastern Michigan. In addition to enjoying traditional Jewish foods and singing Hanukkah (sometimes spelled "Chanukah") songs, attendees of the event listened to Weingarten recount the origins of the Hanukkah holiday and the reasons for the season.

"(The menorah) celebrates and helps to emphasize (Hanukkah's) universal message -- the concept of religious freedom," Weingarten said.

The origin of the Jewish holiday dates back to a time around 200 B.C., during which Judea -- now the mountainous southern part of the region of Palestine -- came under the control of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a king from Syria's Seleucid dynasty, who worked to outlaw the Jewish religion and ordered Jewish people to worship Greek gods.

After Jews of the era, led by Judah Maccabee, drove off their Greek-Syrian oppressors, Maccabee called on his followers to rebuild and cleanse the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the Greek-Syrians. The Hanukkah "miracle," according to the Talmud -- one of the central texts of Judaism -- came when the Jews rededicating the temple found enough untainted olive oil to light the menorah for only one day.

Through a "miracle," the candles of the menorah stayed lit for eight nights.

Weingarten considers the conflict against the Greek-Syrians to be the "first battle" in a fight for religious freedom that allowed for the spread of not only Judaism, but also its "sister" religions including Christianity and Islam.

While the celebration was just a one-night event, the large menorah structure was left to stay up in the Midland Mall for the remainder of the eight days of Hanukkah. The display also includes contact information for the Chabad House-Lubavitch of Eastern Michigan, which people can reach out to if they need more information about the holiday, or if they are in need of candles for their own menorah, Weingarten said.

Chabad House-Lubavitch of Eastern Michigan is based in Flint, though the organization reaches out to host activities in the Tri-City area on a regular basis.

Monday's event was the first of its kind in Midland, and Weingarten said the mall's owner, Mike Kohan, is a "big fan" of the event.

"Management here is very cooperative and appreciative," Weingarten said.

Among the crowd celebrating the second night of Hanukkah at Monday's event was Sheldon Messing, president of the congregation of Temple Beth-El.

"This is the first time they've had this event here -- Hanukkah is usually celebrated in the home," Messing said.

Messing said his synagogue's membership consists of less than 25 family units, though there are more Jewish individuals in the community who take part in events. Weingarten added that it is difficult to get a handle on the true number of Jewish people in Midland, due to the high amount of people from throughout the country and world who move in and out of the area in short periods of time because they have jobs at companies including Dow.

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Chemical City Chanukah: Flint-based organization brings Jewish holiday traditions to Midland - Midland Daily News

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