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Menorah lights the season at Old Orchard

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Sundown on Thanksgiving Eve offered an orange sunset over Skokie when daylight gave way to the electric light of a menorah.

It was a special night, to be sure, to be the ones to light the first candle in honor the first night of Hanukkah. Leaders at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah of Wilmette were grateful for opportunity, especially on this historic night called “Thanksgivakkah”

Near the Apple store in the courtyard by a patio, BHCBE members of all ages came for the 5:30 p.m. ceremony and celebration on an historic night.

“I am excited,” said BHCBE Rabbi Annie Tucker of Wilmette who is the congregation’s new rabbi. “This is my first Hanukkah in the community so that’s exciting.”

Rabbi Tucker will be officially installed on Sunday, Dec. 7 with a Shabbat congregation service at 9:15 a.m. and Kiddush afterward. A reception and installation is planned at 7:30 p.m.

“Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall together this year for the first time ever and will not happen again for another 77,000 years so it’s a very exciting time,” Tucker said.

“I think we will remember where we were for Thanksgivakkah 2013,” she said with a smile.

Cantor Pavel Roytman performed on acoustic guitar and admitted at one point during the concert that he was just plain cold.

No matter, the ceremony was about 15 minutes, plenty of time to warm one’s hands.

But the middle candle on the menorah, which remains lit to symbolize helping to light the other flames, offered a warm glow as people were in a joyous mood.

“It is a big honor,” Roytman said of the opportunity for the congregation to light the first candle. This was his fourth year in a row for the privilege.

Roytman’s singing was accompanied by the BHCBE children’s choir.

“Do you shine because this is Thanksgivakkah?” he sang, to the delight of grade school-aged youngsters.

Many children had completed projects in their schools blending the two holidays.

Artwork using the feathers of a turkey to depict menorah candle holders has been popular this year to mark the occasion.

“Thanksgiving and Hanukkah only coincide once in a blue moon,” said Roytman. “So you’re here on a great night.”

While the menorah at Westfield Old Orchard is oversized (but with no turkey theme this year,) it features large gifts at its base and a dreidel.

Speaking of gifts, complimentary cookies with blue-colored sugar dyed the teeth of the youngest guests. Children were invited to take the first gift of Hanukkah which was a goodie bag with gifts of chocolate in festive wrapping.

“We just want them to know that we’re here, that there’s a great presence in the Wilmette and Skokie area and we invite everybody to celebrate with us,” said Roytman.

In conjunction with Lubavitch Chabad, Westfield Old Orchard is offering a second menorah lighting on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m., also in the Unilock Patio area.

Lubavitch Chabad also will serve warm food and beverages. The congregation will also facilitate a Dreidel House for crafting at the shopping center.

The Dreidel House will be open Friday, Nov. 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; it will also be available for shoppers Sunday, Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 2 through Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah is located at 3220 Big Tree Lane in Wilmette. Visit bhcbe.org/. Also visit www.westfield.com/oldorchard/.

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