Chanukah on Ice staged
By Rachel Conklin - Post-Tribune correspondent

MUNSTER — Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov moved to Northwest Indiana to reach out to the Jewish community, but he invites everyone to come to his fun and educational Chanukah on Ice.

The family event on Sunday will include ice skating, door prizes and making Hanukkah arts and crafts appropriate to Hanukkah — which often is spelled “Chanukah.” Hot chocolate and kosher snacks will be served.

The event is sponsored by Chabad of Northwest Indiana, a group Zalmanov re-established this past year.

Michael Steinberg, director of the Jewish Federation in Munster, said, “I look forward to opportunities where our Jewish community can come and celebrate together. It’s especially wonderful during the holiday of Hanukkah.”

As part of the festivities, a person dressed as Hanukkah hero Judah Maccabee will be a special guest at the ice arena. Many years ago, he and his family refused to adopt Greek culture and customs from their oppressors. They led a revolt to free the Jews around 165 B.C. Zalmanov knows the story well.

“The Maccabees were an elite family among the Jews in the land of Israel. They, along with their small army, were victorious over the large Greek army,” Zalmanov said.

As part of the traditional Hanukkah celebration, Zalmanov will light a menorah, a Jewish candelabra that holds eight candles. One candle is lit for every day of the eight-day holiday.

Zalmanov explained that once the Jews reclaimed their land, they wanted to light their seven-candle menorah with pure olive oil, as was their tradition. But the Greeks had defiled all the pure oil except for a small jar that held only enough for one day.

“A miracle occurred and this oil lasted for eight whole days, which is why the holiday is an eight-day holiday. We light the menorah symbolic of that miracle, each day lighting another candle,” Zalmanov said.

When the miracle happened, Maccabee proclaimed a Jewish festival — Hanukkah.

“The holiday is significant in that we as a Jewish people are constantly reminded of the freedoms we have,” Steinberg said.

This is the first time Zalmanov has organized a Hanukkah celebration in the area. He, along with his wife and daughter, moved to Munster one year ago. They hope to make Chanukah on Ice a tradition.

Zalmanov anticipates the Sunday event will attract a lot of families. Although all families are welcome, Jewish or not, he noted that Hanukkah on Ice is unique because it reaches out to all area Jews, not just those of a particular congregation.

Zalmanov and his family belong to Chabad, an ultra-orthodox Jewish group. The New York-based organization sends families to various areas with low Jewish populations. These families, like the Zalmanovs, reach out to the Jewish community to bring them close to their roots through education and celebration.

“We bring them the joy of the holidays and of serving G-D,” Zalmanov said. “When the holiday of Hanukkah comes, sometimes Jews feel that there’s nothing in it for them. We provide them with programs that make it interesting for Jews to celebrate their own holiday.”