While much of the community is preparing for Christmas, Jews in Lawrence are getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah the Festival of Lights.
This is the time of year when Jews light candles, sing songs, play games and eat special foods to commemorate a military victory that took place more than 2,000 years ago in Israel.
"For us, it's a quality family time. We'll take in the celebration of the Festival of Lights by lighting the menorah each night," said Ken Levine, a member of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive. "We give gifts each night to the kids sometimes they're big gifts, sometimes they're small gifts. We'll enjoy some Hanukkah dinners, and we'll invite friends over to help us celebrate."
His wife, Leiba Levine, is director of the center's religious school. The couple have two children, ages 3 and 7.
Apart from small gatherings of family and friends in people's homes, there will also be a variety of activities for Jews in town to mark the holiday, which lasts from Monday through Dec. 17.
Children in the Jewish center's religious school will put on a Hanukkah program Sunday for their parents featuring songs and stories of the holiday. The center will also celebrate with a Dec. 14 Hanukkah dinner.
On Dec. 15, Psoy "Pasha" Korolenko a noted Russian concept artist and Russian literature scholar will give a performance of Yiddish folk theater and klezmer music at the Jewish center. The event is limited to center members.
The Kansas University Hillel Foundation, 940 Miss., plans several Hanukkah events for the university's roughly 1,500 Jewish students.
The organization will have a party Tuesday at Raoul's Velvet Room, 815 N.H. KU Hillel will staff an awareness table Wednesday in the Kansas Union, where students will hand out latkes (potato pancakes), share information about Hanukkah and invite people to play dreidel games.
Hanukkah is actually considered to be a minor holiday in Judaism. It's not a yom tov a holy day like Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or Passover.
A post-biblical holiday, it is meant to be a fun-filled celebration that commemorates the victory of the Jewish Maccabee fighters over the Syrian and Greek rulers of Israel in 165 B.C.
When Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem, they found their sacred temple had been desecrated by foreign troops.
They cleansed the temple and rededicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, then observed a feast of dedication for eight days in honor of their historic victory.
During Hanukkah, Jews light candles placed in a special candelabrum called a hanukkiah or menorah that has eight branches and a holder for the shamash, or helper candle, that's used to light the others.
This ritual recalls the story of a container of pure oil found in the temple enough to burn for one day that miraculously lasted for eight days.