Families celebrate, honor Hanukkah traditions

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

The Latkes sizzle in oil. The challah dough is braided at the Chabad of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. The festival of lights is underway. The holiday’s story began thousands of years ago.

“The Greek emperor was trying to overthrow the Jews. The Jews were able to come out, they won, they were victorious. They came back to their Holy Temple with such excitement, ready to rededicate their Holy Temple. They started searching the temple for a jug of oil so they could light the menorah and they couldn’t find any jugs that were sealed with the special seal. They were searching and searching and finally they found one jug,” said Chana’le Wolosow, director of Friendship Circle.

It was enough oil to last one night.

“And God made a miracle and that jug lasted for eight nights,” she said.

During Hanukkah, those events are remembered with the lighting of the menorah.

“We light on the first day one candle, on the second day two and on the third day three, and we keep going until we have increased to eight candles. And one of the wonderful messages is each of us, every single person, has to continue to grow and increase in their good deeds,” said Tova Chazanow, co-director of Chabad of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

In the kitchen, mom Tova, daughter Chana’le and friends, prepare holiday foods, including challah with a Hanukkah twist. Challah is a traditional Jewish food, a bread that’s enjoyed throughout the year. This one is a little sweeter.

“It’s called Sufganiyot challah. Sufganiyot just means dougnhut in Hebrew. We tweaked the recipe a little bit to make it a little more doughy. We mixed the dough as regular and we added jam in each of our strands, braided it up,” said Chana’le.

Then the women top it with a glaze and powdered sugar. Next, potatoes are peeled and grated and mixed with an onion, eggs, oil, salt and pepper. Next, they’re shaped and placed in hot oil until it gets brown and crispy.

“You’ll commonly see oil used in Hanukkah recipes and that is reminding us of the miracle of the oil we had in the Holy Temple,” said Chana’le.

A whole pot of oil is used for another holiday treat.

“Doughnuts is a Hanukkah favorite,” she said.

Hanukkah is also an exciting time for children, too. They often play with the dreidel and receive chocolate coins and Hanukkah gelt, or money. It’s a holiday gift the kids are encouraged to donate at least 10 percent of whatever they receive to charity.

For these women, the yearly celebrations have left them with lifelong memories.

“This is something very important to us, sharing our traditions, enjoying our customs, eating our food. There’s a comfort level in it and it’s something we want to pass on to our children, so they know who they are and why they are,” said Tova.