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Hanukkah brings international flavor to Lincoln

By: Alan Markow, Special to The News Messenger
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Winter, snow, a warm hearth and a bevy of family around us. It’s the holiday season. And everyone is awaiting those traditional holiday treats: potato latkes, beef brisket and chocolate dreidels. Well, maybe not everyone. Those are the foods that Jews enjoy while their Christian friends and family consume ham, sweet potatoes and sugar cookies. Because the Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar, the dates vary every year. This year, Christmas takes place on Chanukah’s fifth (of eight) nights. But it’s on the seventh night of Hanukkah – Saturday – that Lincoln’s largest group of Jews will celebrate at McBean Park Pavilion. “Our Hanukkah party is a tradition nearly as old as our Lincoln Hills Shalom Group,” said Al Klein, chair of the annual event. This year marks the seventh annual party for the social club. The Shalom Group event combines traditions that demonstrate the breadth of Judaism itself. Klein brings his New York experiences, while his partner in the kitchen, Hagai Narkis, brings a well-developed taste of Israel, where he was born and raised. Together, they plan to produce an event that’s heavy on eating pleasures and light on formal religion. A minor Jewish holiday, Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BCE, following the Jews’ victory over occupying forces, which ensured religious and political freedom for the time being. The eight days of Hanukkah are celebrated with the nightly lighting of the menorah, the exchange of small gifts after each candle-lighting, traditional games such as dreidel (a four-sided spinning top), Chanukah songs and eating special Hanukkah foods. “In Israel, we eat two foods –latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly doughnuts),” explained Hagai Narkis, who was formerly kitchen manager for his kibbutz near Haifa and became an executive chef at the Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “Our Chanukah ‘meal’ was more of a snack.” “But here in the U.S. it is a bit different,” Narkis added. “The potato latkes are similar but they’re eaten with either sour cream or apple sauce. In Israel, they’re dipped in sugar or eaten with sour cream, never topped with applesauce.” Besides the familiar food, those attending the Hanukkah party will hear San Francisco-based Misha Yagudin performing Yiddish and Jewish dance tunes. This will be Yagudin’s third appearance at the annual party. Sun City Roseville Jewish Fellowship members will also attend. “We share two activities with the Roseville Group,” explained Judie Markow, Shalom Group co-president. “They take the lead on a combined Passover Seder and we host the Chanukah meal and party.” The Passover Seder is at the Roseville Sun City lodge while the Chanukah party usually takes place at the McBean Park Pavilion.