Seasonal celebration

This year Hanukkah begins the evening of Saturday, Dec. 24 when the first candle of the menorah is lit at nightfall and will end the evening of Sunday, Jan. 1.”A few years back when Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving we called it ‘Thanksgivingkkah,’ and this is the pendulum swinging the other way, the holiday is really late this year,” said Adam Organ, director of the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center.The Raleigh-Cary JCC sits on 31 beautiful acres off of Norwood Road in North Raleigh and programs are their main focus. “Many JCC’s operate on a system where there are 3 legs to the stool — camp, a fitness center, and preschool or daycare,” said Organ. “Everything we do is program based which makes us really different than the other folks that are out there.”The Guld Family Center is the first building in the JCC’s major building and renovation. The rendering in the lobby reflects seven buildings across the bucolic campus and additional outdoor activities like the ropes course slated for completion late spring of 2017.The vibrant camp the JCC runs during summer is the main engine for the center. JCC Camp is open to rising kindergartners through tenth graders. “The nine weeks of camp basically supports our year,” said Organ. “You should see it in the summer, this is a happening place.”The center does serve the community year-round holding events for adult learners, a film series, book groups — and holiday events like this week’s sixth annual women’s dreidel exchange. “The dreidel exchange is like any other kind of white elephant party we just happen to do it with dreidels,” said Organ. “It’s always interesting to see what gets recycled year after year, and it is fun to think about which dreidel you’re willing to let go of.”Unlike a white elephant where there may be items you are trying to pawn off on someone else this gift exchange featured beautifully detailed dreidels by well-known artists. The phrase “don’t get too attached,” flew around the room as the ladies exchanged items back and forth. Mindy Lawton of Raleigh started the event, “This is the sixth annual exchange,” said Lawton. “It’s a fun way to gather together during the season, the planning for the event rotates each year and we always have a good time.”The history of playing dreidel during Hanukkah dates back centuries. According to Noam Zion’s book “A Different Light: The Hanukkah Book of Celebration,” the explanation of the game’s connection to Hanukkah is the letters nun, gimmel, hey, shin, that appear on the dreidel stand for nes gadol haya sham meaning “a great miracle happened there.”Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to dedicate.””What we are really celebrating on Hanukkah is rededication,” said Organ. “It is an opportunity for us to consider our faith, we talk about rededicating ourselves to Torah and to Jewish traditions, but it can be rededicating yourself to your family or making a decision to go back to school.”The season lends itself to self-examination. It is the time of the year for reinvention, and that is a common theme among all of the different celebrations.The laughter-filled dreidel exchange certainly filled all in attendance with the light of the season regardless of whether they left with the treasure they had their eye on.