Dec. 23, 2006
By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
If there's no latke, it's not Chanukah.
The latke is what a hashbrown aspires to be, a patty-sized potato cake fried in German tradition.
'They are delicious. The latke completes the Hanukkah party,' said Jan Hart, the chief latke cook at the Hanukkah party that took place at the Frankel residence in Temple on Thursday, Dec. 21.
With each ladle full of batter, Mrs. Hart was teaching 12-year-old Rebecca Frankel how to properly form and fry each latke.
'Foods that are fried in oil are important at Hanukkah celebrations,' said Mary Jo Koss of Temple.
She referenced the Hanukkah story that tells the miracle of how the oil lasted eight full nights instead of just one.
According to tradition as recorded in the Jewish text of the Talmud, at the time of the rededication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, there was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks.
Oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night.
There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the candelabrum.
An eight-day festival - Hanukkah - was declared to commemorate this miracle.
Donuts and the latkes are two popular Hanukkah foods prepared in oil.
Sheila Dobin of Temple pointed out that according to tradition, the donuts should be homemade.
'But who has the time? Nobody,' Mrs. Dobin said. 'That's what HEB is for.'
Once the food was prepared, the 30 or so guests gathered around the five menorahs on the kitchen counter.
'Everything official happens before we eat,' said Loui Dobin of Temple, just before he led the group in the ritualistic lighting of the candles and the berakhot, a series of three song-prayers called the 'blessing over the candles.'
Everyone participated in this part of the party.
The three children, Ian Frankel, 10, his sister Rebecca and his non-Jew friend Josh Petersen, 11, of Temple, lit the candles.
'The shammus is the tallest candle on the menorah. It's usually in the center,' Mrs. Dobin said. 'It's used to light the remaining eight candles that are all even in height but shorter than the shammus.'
The menorahs have eight candles because of the eight-day miracle referenced above.
Once the prayers were said and the menorahs were lit, it was time to eat.
The latkes started the feast, and tradition says they are to be eaten with sour cream and applesauce. Then came the coke, wine, corn casserole, cheese, bread, fruit, salad, quiche and barbecue steak.
'Hanukkah is a happy celebration of religious freedom,' Mrs. Hart said. 'But it is also a good time to eat,' she added, laughing.
The two boys who stole a few bites of latke before dinner was officially served were full before the grown-ups. So Ian and Josh started playing with the dreidels.
The dreidel comes with its own instructions.
A dreidel has four sides to it, and each side is marked with a Hebrew letter. The four Hebrew letters are Nun, Gimmel, Hay and Shin. They stand for the Hebrew phrase, 'Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,' which means, 'A great miracle happened there (in Israel).' The phrase refers to the eight-day miracle of the oil.
In Israel, a different symbol is used for the fourth, and the translation reads 'A great miracle happened here.'
Though the traditional Jewish colors are blue and white, dreidels are painted with a variety of colors. The toys also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But the inscriptions are the same.
'There's a top and 10 chocolate coins,' Ian said, starting to explain the rules of the game. 'Then you just gamble with them. But you have to do what the dreidel says.'
Gimel means you get all the coins, Hay means you get half the coins, Nun means you get none of the coins and Shin means all players evenly share the coins.
'At your turn, you put in a coin, spin and then see what happens,' Ian said.
Josh, who isn't Jewish, said he enjoyed the game. And Ian said Josh could 'spin the dreidel really good.'
Ian was the first boy to lose all his coins, but he started to call 'charity,' so he could stay in the game. By calling charity, Josh had to give Ian a 'pity coin.'
'There's no such thing as calling charity,' interjects Mrs. Dobin. 'You're telling it wrong.'
'Yeah,' Ian said, grinning. 'I'm just cheating, so I can stay in the game.'
Josh was grinning as well.
'I came over to play,' Josh said. 'But I also wanted to experience Hanukkah. I'm having fun.'
The conclusion of the Hanukkah ended the same as any holiday gathering - with hugs and smiles.
Greene Family Camp
The Greene Family Camp in Bruceville is a source for area Jews to meet others who share their faith.
Loui Dobin of Temple, is the camp's director.
'Call the camp and ask for Loui if you want to know more about local Jewish activities,' Mr. Dobin said. The number is call (254) 859-5411.
The city of Temple has no temple for Jewish worship, but once a month a rabbi from Waco comes to Temple to lead an informal service. The group that meets is called 'temple in Temple.'
The participants, Jewish people who range in age from 16 to 80, read books, watch movies and have discussions and Jewish fellowship. The activities are sometimes serious and sometimes social, but always fun and beneficial, Mary Jo Koss said.
The group communicates with its members via a mass e-mail send-out. Though Mr. Dobin said area Jews are usually identified by word of mouth, newcomers can call the Greene Family Camp to introduce themselves.
Rebecca Frankel, 12, confirmed that the Jewish population in Temple is not too hard to spot.
Her head glanced around her home where Thursday night's Hanukkah took place. Tiny menorah earrings dangled just above her neck.
'Pretty much all the Jews in town are here,' Rebecca said.