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Hanukkah celebration a sign of waxing congregation, synagogue leaders say

Brighten up! Bay Ridge Jewish Center celebrates survival at festival of lights

Brooklyn Daily

A new day is dawning at Bay Ridge’s once-struggling synagogue, if the nearly 100 people who turned out on Sunday for its yearly Hannukah celebration are any indication.

Some 40 children — most from the temple’s Hebrew school — lit candles for the fifth night of the festival of lights and the whole crowd gathered to say traditional blessings. The scene was a far cry from just five years ago, when the center’s attendance was so low it could not gather enough people to hold a Hannukah event and the leadership was considering selling the building to a developer.

“It’s a good sign, because it shows that we’re growing and people know we’re around,” said the synagogue’s vice president, Ruth Shulman.

The temple’s rabbi saw a parallel between the recent successes and the story behind Hannukah, in which the small Maccabee clan overthrows the pagan Seleucid Empire in Jerusalem during the second century B.C.

The tale goes like this: because the Seleucids had desecrated the city’s ancient temple, the Maccabee-led Israelites threw out many of its ceremonial items, including most of the supply of kosher olive oil used to keep the traditional menorah alight. Only a day’s worth of the sacred fuel remained, and the Jewish authorities needed eight days to prepare a new batch. But the small remaining amount miraculously lasted for more than a week, giving the religious leaders time enough to cook up some fresh fuel.

“It’s about light, and what we can each do to bring light into the community,” said Rabbi Dina Rosenberg. “It’s really beautiful to see all the children lighting their menorahs, and thinking about bringing light and life to the Bay Ridge Jewish Center. It was slowly going out, and now it’s returning to its bright flame.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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