PUBLISHED: 3:04 PM on Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Happy Hanukkah
Jewish Community of Juneau celebrates in new synagogue
There are many different ways to spend the holidays in Alaska. For some people, it means decorating trees and opening presents; for others, it means visiting friends, or attending special church services. For the members of the Jewish Community of Juneau, the holidays mean an opportunity to gather together with others of their faith.

"This is the first year that we'll be celebrating Hanukkah in our new synagogue, Congregation Sukkat Shalom," said Steve Wolf, who is organizing the party this year. "We just bought the building and are in the process of refurbishing it, so it's pretty bare in there. We'll definitely have to decorate."

Before dedicating the synagogue this past August, the Jewish Community of Juneau met at members' houses, in local churches and at the senior center. They spent four years searching for the building, which is located on Cordova Street in West Juneau.

About 40 people are expected to attend the event Dec. 30, which will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the celebration, the group will sing songs, socialize and play games with the children. "One of the games the kids play is dreidl," Wolf said. "The dreidl is a small spinning device with Hebrew letters on it that stand for various things. Depending on what letter they get, they put gelt in or take it out. In this case, the gelt will be candy money."

The celebration will also feature a potluck, including salads, desserts and latkes, or potato pancakes, and the lighting of the Menorah.

In addition to celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish Community of Juneau also gathers during the year to celebrate other events, including the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which were celebrated this year in October. The group also meets regularly for Shabbat services and runs a weekly religious school.

"The first Jewish people came to Juneau in 1883, though this organization actually got its start in the mid-70s," explained Norman Cohen, board chairman of the Jewish Community in Juneau. "Right now, we have a couple hundred members, or about 40 families."

According to Wolf, anyone who has an interest in learning more about the Jewish Community of Juneau is welcome to attend the Hanukkah celebration. The group can also be reached by calling 463-4333.