Beginning of Chanukah marked in Missoula - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Beginning of Chanukah marked in Missoula

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Rabbi Berry Nash of Chabad Lubavitch of Missoula (MTN News photo) Rabbi Berry Nash of Chabad Lubavitch of Missoula (MTN News photo)

Jewish groups gathered at the Southgate Mall on Sunday afternoon to celebrate a holiday tradition that is over 2,000 years old - the beginning of Chanukah.

Lighting the first candle of the Menorah sparks eights days of celebrations and games for the holiday. An additional candle is lit each day. The event was sponsored by Rabbi Berry Nash and his group Chabad Lubavitch of Missoula.

"Where 2,000 years ago the Jews were persecuted and forced by the Syrian Greeks to halt and stop their religion and destroy their holy temple in Jerusalem. Today - tonight - is the first night they re inaugurated the holy temple," Rabbi Nash explained.

Several members from the University of Montana Jewish student group Hillel helped put on free educational activities like candle-making and games for everyone to participate in, regardless of religion or belief.

Graduating senior Brett Tulchin was dressed as historical figure Judah the Maccabee for photos with kids. "It's important for me to be a part of this community and I just recently got into it so it feels good for me to be a part of and contribute as much as I can."

This year's Chanukah celebrations have increased significance worldwide as Jewish communities honor the year of Hakhel, which comes once every seven years. Hakhel is an opportunity to celebrate Jewish unity and learning.

"The message of Chanukah is a global message, not only for Jewish people, but for everyone and anyone that goodness will always prevail, which is signified and represented by the light," Rabbi Nash said.

The group ended the night with traditional songs.  Light bulb candles on the Menorah will be lit for the next seven days at the Southgate Mall.

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