"Peace on Earth" is not merely a string of words.
For people who have attended past Peace Chanukah celebrations in Taos, they know what the galvanizing power of hoping and praying for peace in an all-inclusive atmosphere really feels like.
For the 16th consecutive year, the Taos Jewish Center will host the Peace Chanukah on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 208 Camino de Santiago at Gusdorf Road.
Event organizer Bette Meyerson will tell you the Peace Chanukah is not just a Jewish thing. Everyone from the community is invited and encouraged to bring menorahs (candles will be provided), which will be lit during the ceremony. There is no charge for admittance, but those who can are asked to bring non-perishable food items to put toward a collection for the Shared Table, the St. James Food Pantry and The Men's Shelter. The event is sponsored by B’nai Shalom Havurah, the Taos Jewish Center and St. James Church.
This inspirational Peace Chanukah (the "c" is silent) features singing songs about peace and speakers of various religions will speak about harmony.
This year's event will again include voices from various religious sects. Confirmed speakers are Mirabai Starr (writer, speaker, beloved inter-spiritual leader); Dottie Butler (Clear Light Fellowship, Quaker); Father Mike Olson (St. James Episcopal Church); Prof. Martinez Hewlett (Roman Catholic); and Heyam Khweis (Muslim). To be announced are a Buddhist speaker and a representative from Taos Pueblo.
Neal Friedman, incoming president of the Taos Jewish Center will tell the story of Chanukah and Annette Rubin will lead everyone in the lighting of the candles and the reciting of the blessings.
Singers will be led by a “choir” of local singers: Julie Greer, Cindy Grossman, Elizabeth Calvert, Betty Backer, Kathleen Burg, Roberta Lerman and Liz Kelner. Song sheets will be provided.
The celebration of Chanukah commemorates a miracle that Jews believe occurred in the Holy Temple: Upon their return to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after defeating Hellenist Syrians — who made it illegal for Jews to worship — the Jews found only enough oil to light the temple's menorah for one day. Inexplicably, the menorah stayed aflame for eight days and nights, giving them enough time to find more oil to keep the fire lit.
Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in the second century B.C. The word itself means "dedication" in Hebrew, and traditionally Chanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, which is normally in November or December.
This holiday rich in culture is also known as the Festival of Lights, hence the importance and symbolism of the menorahs and candles.
Taos' special celebration of Chanukah was born from the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks. The first Peace Chanukah was held on the East Coast in 2001, Meyerson said. It brought people from all religions together to celebrate peace and the lights of the season in wake of the attacks. In attendance was a Taos Jewish community member who brought the idea back to Taos. With a world that seems to become more violent and more at odds every day, the event has continued in Taos every year since.
"The world is getting worse, it seems to me," Meyerson said in 2015 and her statement remains relevant. "As far as I know, we're the only ones still holding this event."
There is no charge for this event, but people are asked to bring nonperishable food, which will be given to the local food programs: Shared Table, St. James Food Pantry and Taos Men’s Shelter.
For more information, contact the Taos Jewish Center at (575) 758-8615, Bette Myerson at (575) 758-3376, or visit taosjewishcenter.org.