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Chanukah kicked off on Saturday with many Jews deciding to go on a special weekend retreat to mark the start of the festival.

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The celebration – which is also called the Festival of Lights – started on Saturday and lasts for eight days.

The festival commemorated the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt in the second century.

Rabbi Nancy Morris, of the South West Essex & Settlement Reform Synagogue, Oaks Lane, Newbury Park, said: “It’s a traditional but not a religious festival. It’s a very happy festive holiday. There were harsh laws on Jews. It’s the victory of the few against the many.”

Members of Mrs Morris’ synagogue went on a weekend retreat in Hertfordshire to mark the start of Chanukah.

They were joined by people from Bet Tikva Synagogue, Perrymans Farm Road, Newbury Park and the Woodford Liberal Synagogue, Marlborough Road, South Woodford.

Mrs Morris said: “It’s not a biblical festival, it happened much later in history, it’s really a commemoration of an historical event.”

Before the revolt the temple had been used for pagan idol worship and so it was cleansed and rededicated after the revolt.

Mrs Morris added: “They only had enough oil for one day but it miraculously lasted for eight days until they could get more. The oil was specially purified which took time to get.”

Jews commemorating Chanukah light a candle on a candelabra called a menorah each day for eight days.

“People display the menorah somewhere to publicise the miracle of Chanukah.

“Children are also supposed to get gifts each day and people eat fried foods as symbolic of the oil, like doughnuts,” added Mrs Morris.

During the weekend retreat people learned about Chanukah, listened to talks, put on entertainment and visited the surrounding countryside. “It’s a weekend for the different communities to celebrate the holiday, bond and do learning sessions,” said Mrs Morris.

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