HAPPY HANUKKAH — Lebanon Town Supervisor James Goldstein and his family are joining other Jewish families in Madison County to celebrate Hanukkah. Colgate University in Hamilton, near Lebanon township, hosts a sizable Jewish Community. (Photo submitted)

County supervisor, family carry on Hanukkah tradition

Published Dec 24, 2016 at 4:00pm

HAMILTON — While most of America celebrates the Christmas and New Year's holidays this coming week people of Jewish descent and converts to Judaism are celebrating Hanukkah. James Goldstein, who serves as Lebanon town supervisor in Madison County, and his family are among them.

Hanukkah is a celebration of Jewish faith and culture enduring despite severe persecution. Syrian King Antiochus III had looted the Jewish Temple. They had banned circumcision and introduced sacrifices to Zeus and had slaughtered pigs. In 167 B.C. a Jewish Priest named Mattathias and his five sons decided they'd had enough.

"The King of Syria tried to abolish Jewish traditions. He had his soldiers desecrating the different elements in the temple. The Jewish priests, among them Judah the Hammer, revolted against the Syrians and expelled them from the temple," Goldstein said.

Hanukkah recognizes both the successful rebellion against a superior Syrian force, and the miracle of the oil.

"They only wanted to use kosher oil when they burned the lamps in the Temple," Goldstein said. "The priests had hidden some oil, but it would take eight days to retrieve it. They thought they only had enough oil for one day, but the candies stayed lit until they returned."

Each night during Hanukkah one of the candles on the eight-pronged menorah is lit. The Hanukkah story is recited and special meals are eaten. And everyone spins the dreidel.

"The dreidel was a way of learning about Judaism. The game developed when the Greeks later tried to eliminate Jewish beliefs. They thought it was just a game, but it helped teach the Jewish faith," Goldstein said.

Jewish communities remain active in Utica and Syracuse, where Goldstein and his family worship. Colgate University in Hamilton hosts a sizable Jewish community.

"There are not a lot of Jewish people in Madison County, but there are between twenty-five and thirty families in Hamilton. We have weekly dinners, and we get involved in the community," Goldstein said.

This year the eight-day celebration begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Year's Day. Because Judaism follows a lunar calendar, rather than the solar calendar that governs most of the rest of the world, Hanukkah falls on different dates each year.

"My grandson and I joke that when Hanukkah fall on Thanksgiving we should replace the menorah with eight turkey legs. We have a bit of fun with it," Goldstein said.

Jewish culture received a boost on Dec. 3, 1994, when comedian Adam Sandler first performed "The Hanukkah Song" on live television.

It was written to ease the sense of alienation Jewish children felt while their friends celebrated Christmas. The song also listed celebrities who were born Jewish or had converted to Judaism. It also emphasized that those who observed Hanukkah had eight days of celebration compared to the one day of Christmas.

"That song was very popular among my Jewish friends," Goldsten said. "My grandson loved the song, but the movie "Eight Crazy Nights," which was based on the song, was not one of Sandler's finer moments."