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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hanukkah party celebrates lighting of the menorah at Temple Beth Shalom

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 17, 2017

Shulamit Giangreco, 7, center right, lights six of the candles on the tiny menorah on her family's table Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at Temple Beth Shalom during a Hanukkah celebration. With her are Cassidy Worley, 15, Solomon Giangreco, 9 and Jessica Worley, right.  Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Shulamit Giangreco, 7, center right, lights six of the candles on the tiny menorah on her family's table Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at Temple Beth Shalom during a Hanukkah celebration. With her are Cassidy Worley, 15, Solomon Giangreco, 9 and Jessica Worley, right. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Sitting alone at a table in the corner, Solomon Giangreco spun his plastic dreidel, waiting for someone to approach him to play.

Some did, though the games seldom lasted long – there was too much excitement in the air. It was Temple Beth Shalom’s annual Hanukkah party, and the rabbi was about to lead the room in song and prayer.

But the 9-year-old stayed. And spun, and stared down at the pile of plastic gold coins in front of him.

“I’m really good at it,” he said of dreidel, one of his favorite pastimes associated with Hanukkah. He also likes the fun, the presents, the food. Especially the latkes – oil-fried potato pancakes.

“I also like the jelly donuts, too,” he admitted.

Once a relatively minor Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has become as big as Christmas in many Jewish families. For the dozens Sunday night at Temple Beth Shalom on Spokane’s South Hill, it was easy to see why.

As children flocked to the tables with dreidels, adults mulled over the score to the Seahawks game and made small talk. Spirits were bright when Rabbi Tamar Malino said a few words before food was served, and even more so when the morsels touched their lips.

Many were regulars at the temple, which serves Spokane’s sizable Conservative Jewish congregation. Most had been to the Hanukkah party in the past.

“I love all the families that get together,” said Anthony Giangreco, Solomon’s father. “The kids go to see members of the community they don’t often get to see, and same for us.”

Every year, the temple invites their congregation to light the candles of the menorah together and eat traditional Hanukkah food – mostly those cooked in oil, signifying the oil of the candle in 165 B.C. in ancient Jerusalem that burned for eight days. That includes potato pancakes and jelly donuts.

After saying the traditional blessings in Hebrew and singing together, the families took their matches and lit the candles. Six of the wicks burned strong; the other two would follow, burning until the evening of Dec. 20, the end of Hanukkah.

Diane Lefcort, president of the Spokane chapter of Hadassah, Women’s Zionist Organization of America, said the event is in about its 10th or so year. She said the Hanukkah party at Temple Beth Shalom is something the community looks forward to every year.

“It’s really for the enduring spirit of the Jewish people,” she said of the holiday. “And it’s fun.”

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