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Temple Emanu-El adapts to celebrating Hanukkah amid COVID-19

Cantor Neil Schwartz has led services via Zoom
Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 3:54 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Hanukkah is essentially a homebased festival, each year every community has some sort of celebration in their synagogues. However, due to COVID-19 they are relying on technology this year to come together.

“This year we have Zoom services led by Cantor Neil Schwartz and we can tune in at 6:30 and he will do a little service, a candle lighting service,” Stefan Zweig, podiatrist, said.

Traditionally, each year on the sabbath evening within the eight day span of Hanukkah Temple Emanu-El would host a Hanukkah potluck dinner in the social hall. Congregants would bring dishes of vegetables or fruit to accompany the potato pancakes.

“There’s no food served in the service hall this year,” Zweig said. “This year there is no Hanukkah potluck this year, so we have to wait until 2021 for that to resume.”

Although the celebration may look different this year, Cantor Neil Schwartz, Spiritual Leader of Temple Emanu-El, said the real miracle of the Hanukkah story remains.

“The historical fact that a small army of citizens acting as non-professional soldiers were able to defeat an invading professional army and regain control over Israel, the fact that they fought for religious freedom is much more important than the control of the land,” Cantor Schwartz said.

Cantor Schwartz said it is one of the earliest battles in history just for religious freedom.

“I wish everyone in the Wiregrass a very happy holiday, whatever holiday is being celebrated, and may we all move into our new secular year with safety, with health and with great thanks to everybody who is taking care of us all.”

Zoom services included Cantor Schwartz leading services, students leading the candle lighting and singing Hanukkah songs.

Hanukkah began on December 10th and ends the evening of December 18th.

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