How appropriate, some said, that one group’s celebration Wednesday of the Jewish miracle of the oil should take place in a shopping mall food court.
The celebration is better known as Hanukkah. And one Jewish group, Chabad (pronounced "huh-BOD") of the East Valley, has started a modern Hanukkah tradition of sorts: Celebrating one day of the eight-day festival at Arizona Mills mall in Tempe.
As it has each year since 1997, Chabad held a small, nearly hourlong program Wednesday on a stage at the eastern end of the mall’s food court.
The program included songs sung by children from the Chabad Hebrew School, a talk by Rabbi Mendy Deitsch about the meaning of the holiday and the lighting of four candles on the menorah, one for each day of the festival that has passed.
"I think the food court is the perfect place," said Menachem Rapaport, Deitsch’s brother-in-law who was in town from Wisconsin for Hanukkah.
Rapaport talked about the connection between mall food and traditional Hanukkah foods such as deep-fried doughnuts and potato pancakes, called latkes. "It just connects with the concept of oil, whether for warmth or light — all very positive stuff," he said.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago. After victory, the Jewish rebels lit the temple’s eternal flame with only enough oil for one day. Said to be miraculous, the lamp burned for eight days.
The traditional celebration of Hanukkah includes things that have to do with oil or light.
It is also the only holiday on the Jewish calendar that is publicly celebrated.