Joe Moscinski places the final light in the outdoor menorah at Temple Shalom in Auburn on Friday evening to celebrate Chanukah. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN – It was time to light the menorah and Rabbi Sruli Dresdner was in a fine mood. 

“Gather round and count your blessings,” he told the group of several dozen outside Temple Shalom. “It’s warmer than it was last night.” 

It was still pretty cold, though, so Dresdner urged the people to stay warm by hollering out as the menorah was lit. 

“Our job is to say, ‘mazel tov’ every time a light lands in the right spot,” the rabbi told them, and that’s what they did. Each time a lamp fell into place atop the menorah, the group yelled ‘mazel tov’ in unison, frost from their mouths serving as exclamation points in the icy air. 

For Dresdner, this was the sixth time he’d hosted the temple’s “Mega Chanukah Party.” Many of those who came to celebrate the holiday had been coming for much longer than that – the dozens who turned out were not strangers to one another, and the yearly Chanukah party is a beloved tradition. 

“We have services all the time. We have different clubs,” Bertha Bodenheimer of Auburn said. “We have book clubs, there’s a card club and all kinds of different programs. But this is always wonderful.” 


Bodenheimer, as it happened, was accompanied by her son, Andrew, who came from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, as he does every year for Chanukah. After arriving at the temple, Andrew got busy getting reacquainted with people he hasn’t seen in a while. 

“We’re a small Jewish community,” Bertha said, “But very, very active.” 

It showed on Friday night, the sixth night of Chanukah. After the menorah was lit outside, the shivering group wandered back into the temple for a play performed by children from the Hebrew School. There was music, a catered dinner, crafts and dreidel games for the children and more latkes and jelly donuts than anyone could count. 

“This,” said Lisa Mayer, the rabbi’s wife, “is one of my favorite times of the year.” 

According to the rabbi, event organizers had even found a way to incorporate “Star Wars” into the theme, since “Star Wars” was all the rage this month. 

It was a lively affair, but as always, there were solemn moments, as well. More menorahs were lit inside the temple and nobody forgot the reason for the season. 


Chanukah commemorates the victory of Judah Macabee’s small band of freedom fighters against the mighty Greek army. Although the Temple in Jerusalem was sacked, one jug of holy oil was found to light the menorah. It was only enough oil to last one day. But then there was another Chanukah miracle — that bit of oil lasted for eight whole days. That is why Chanukah is called The Festival of Lights and that’s why all people who try to bring light into the world are celebrated. 

At Temple Shalom, most people remember when the big menorah outside was lit with real flames instead of lamps with LED lights. 

“When I got here,” Dresdner said, “it was kerosene and a blowtorch on lock. The wind would blow the candles out right away.” 

This year, all they needed was Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin and Joe Moscinski of Turner, who took turns using a long pole to set the lamps in place. 

“Mazel tov!” the crowd would cry, and before long, all nine of the menorah lights were shining and the celebrations got going for real at Temple Shalom. 

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: