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Samuel Field Y kicks off holidays with annual lighting

Hundreds of residents from northeast Queens were expected to celebrate Hanukkah at the Samuel Field Y this weekend in what has come to be known as one of the largest events honoring the festival of lights in the borough.

The Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council will sponsor its annual Hanukkah party Dec. 5 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Samuel Field Y at 58-20 Little Neck Pkwy., which will include a number of physical activities to go along with the event’s “happy healthy” theme.

“We target the Jewish community that may not necessarily be part of a synagogue yet,” NEQJCC President Corey Bearak said. “We get a lot of younger families who haven’t found their way to a synagogue. It’s about introducing some Jewish tradition, culture and observance to families that may not as get as much.”

The NEQJCC is an association of synagogues and other religious, education and community organizations. It covers Bay Terrace, Bayside, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Holliswood, Hollis Hills, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

The annual party has a different theme each year, and as part of this year’s health theme, the event will include disco dancing, healthy drinks and snacks and a variety of fitness activities. There will also be free latkes, arts and crafts and a candle-lighting ceremony at 2:30 p.m.

“There’s a lot of things for families, a lot of crafts and games,” Bearak said.

Hundreds of people attend the event, making it one of the largest, if not the largest, Hanukkah parties in the borough, according to borough officials.

The Dec. 5 party celebrates Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday that began at sundown Dec. 1. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that happened more than 2,200 years ago, when Jews had been forbidden to pray or study the Torah by the king Antiochus Epiphanes. As the story goes, the king placed a figure of Zeus, a Greek god, in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Led by Judah Maccabee, Jews retaliated against this oppression and after three years reclaimed the Holy Temple, at which time legend has it they found only enough oil to light their menorah for one day. But when they lit the menorah, it burned for not one day but eight days.

The NEQJCC will host the celebration following a kick-off for the group’s annual coat drive, also at the Y. The coat drive will officially launch at 12 p.m.

The coats will go to the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, which will distribute them throughout the borough and city.

“Our mantra is it’s better to give than to receive,” Bearak said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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