EL CENTRO — Regardless of the religion you practice, food is likely an integral element of family holiday traditions. For Jews celebrating Hanukkah, food is used to help tell the story behind holiday.
Members of Congregation
Beth Jacob in El Centro met for a potluck to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah
on Dec. 22.
Sue Macey spoke about the
relevance of food during Hanukkah as she cooked potato latkes in a small pool
“We make latkes because
we are celebrating a miracle of oil and to understand that, you need to know
the story of Hanukkah,” she said.
Cynthia Harvie, cantor of
the synagogue added, “The Assyrian King Antiochus Epiphanes IV invaded Israel
and pillaged the temple. After the invasion had been repelled, the rededication
ceremony for the synagogue was supposed to last eight days.”
A requirement for the
ceremony was that an oil lamp burn in the temple constantly for those eight days.
Harvey continued, “The rabbis
only had enough oil to last one day. It was a miracle. The small amount of oil
lasted all eight days.”
Macey brought the story
full circle, saying, “We cook food in oil like potato latkes and jelly donuts
to remember the miracle of Hanukkah.”
Potato latkes are a
pancake made with graded potato, egg and onion deep fried with flour and salt.
The pancakes are traditionally served with sour cream and apple sauce.
Harvie explained, “Jews
in different parts of the world have their own unique traditions to celebrate
In the Imperial Valley,
the Hanukkah banquet table had its own unique fusion of Jewish delicacies
inspired by local culture. All the staples were there such lox (cured salmon)
and bagels, quiche, salad, wine and a plethora of deserts. A few
non-traditional favorites at the party were tamales and a large pinata shaped
like a dreidel (a small four-sided
spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side).
Harvie elaborated, “The
dreidel is a game kids play during Hanukkah by spinning a top gambling with
Gilberto Barajas has been
interested in Judaism for years and recently joined the congregation. This was
his first Hanukkah.
“Latkes was what I really
wanted to learn how to make but it was not as easy as I thought. I like how
festive the food is,” he said.
Barajas expected the latkes
to taste like hash browns but explained, “I was really surprised how good they
tasted. I could taste the onion and enjoyed the sour cream and apple sauce. I
give it a nine out of 10.”
Barajas admitted his favorite
dish of the evening was the kugel, which is made with pasta, sour cream and
Macey made sure to remind
everyone, “The other thing that is very important about Hanukkah is lighting
candles on the menorah. The lights remind us that we are supposed to be a light
in the world and do good things.”
Anyone interesting in
finding about more about Congregation Beth Jacob may email