Last night I sat at the kitchen table long after I should have. There were many other things that needed my attention around the house but the eight lights of the menorah were still burning and they seemed too precious to abandon for other mundane pursuits. Those little lights really did light up the darkness and that was so welcome this year.
We are blessed with an extraordinary community at our synagogue and schools. This community truly does what we say each week on Shabbat – we gather to celebrate together because community enhances our joy. It has been a wonderful week of Hanukkah that has shown the richness of what Chizuk Amuno Congregation & Schools is all about.
About 600 people joined us at services for Shabbat Hanukkah. A young man became Bar Mitzvah, a young couple named their first born daughter (19 years after the baby’s mom had become a Bat Mitzvah on our bimah that very weekend), another couple was showered with candy for their aufruf, a longtime member had an Aliyah for his 85th birthday, we blessed our tenth graders who have continued their formal Jewish education and are leaving for Israel tomorrow, a young college grad who grew up here led Family Services, and we said farewell to a Shabbat regular of many decades who is leaving Baltimore this week for warmer climates. It was a morning that highlighted individual members of our community and the strength of our collective community in coming together.
During the other days of Hanukkah our sweet preschoolers gathered each morning as a whole school to light the menorah and sing the blessings together. The Religious School also came together to light the menorah and say the blessings for a festive celebration. Our Day School students built a Lego menorah, ate latkes and sang countless Hanukkah songs. We showed appreciation for our hard working staff with a Happy Hour Hanukkah party. Dozens of adult learners studied the connections between Hanukkah and the national emblem of the State of Israel. And all of us were delighted at the smashing success of “Hanukkah Lights Up The Sky” planned and executed by Chizuk Amuno and co-hosted with Beth El. Over 800 people shared in celebrations as our two communities came together for dinner, candle lighting, and fireworks. It has already received wonderful press!
During the week of Hanukkah we were “lit up” to receive two awards: one from the Governor in recognition of the two bio retention gardens that we installed earlier this year and a silver level award for being a Regional Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace. We are thrilled that these two achievements were recognized by our larger Maryland community and are becoming part of the narrative of who Chizuk Amuno is in the community.
The special liturgical addition for Hanukkah remarks on the miracles and wonders in those days and in our days. On this last day of Hanukkah let us give thanks for the miracle that is Chizuk Amuno Congregation and Schools. We are grateful to our members, our parents, our boards, our students, our supporters, our worshipers, our volunteers, our staff and all who are a part of this grand adventure.