WILKES-BARRE — Inside the Jewish Community Center, the band was playing.
Outside, the menorah was being lit, marking the fifth day of Hanukkah.
With Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel tickling the ivories and Essie Davidowitz on the flute, Robert Capin on drums and Florence Kornblatt shaking the tambourine, a crowd of more than 100 got ready to have dinner to celebrate the Mayrutz Halapid Ceremony — the Running of the Torch.
From Temple Israel on South River Street and across the river from Temple B’nai B’rith in Kingston, torchbearers ran to light the menorah outside of the JCC on South River Street signifying a coming together of the community.
Barbara Sugarman, art and cultural director at the JCC, said the center has sponsored the event for 45 years. She said the run is a longstanding tradition that began in 1940 in Israel when young men would run to distant cities to light public menorahs.
“We hope that our tradition will light the way for many future generations,” Sugarman said.
She said Hanukkah marks the successful revolution of the ancient Jews against oppressive rulers who had threatened to wipe out Jewish religious practices.
The celebration is marked by the lighting of eight candles. The first candle was lit on Nov. 27 and the lightings will continue to Wednesday.
Kaplan said the Hanukkah celebration offers a time for the community to forget about all of the sadness in the world and in the local community.
“We’ve had a lot of losses,” Kaplan said. “It’s good to get the community together to celebrate and bring some light into their homes and their lives.”
Kaplan was practicing Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Light One Candle” with the band that included a keyboard and other instruments.
“I play a mean tambourine,” Kornblatt said.
“Anything that brings families together is good,” Davidowitz said.
Rabbi Roger Lerner of Temple B’nai B’rith in Kingston was one of the runners. Six runners represented each side of the Susquehanna River.
Sugarman said the Hanukkah lights are traditionally placed in a spot where passersby may see them in order to display pride in the historic miracles and the joyousness of the holiday.
Each night, one of the eight lights is lit. The ninth light on the menorah — the Shammash — is the attendant candle that is used to light the others.