Congregation Beth Israel celebrates Hanukkah in new synagogue

By Jessica Bowman - email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - For Jews, Hanukkah is always a special time of year. But this year, the Festival of Lights took on an even more significant meaning for Congregation Beth Israel.

For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, members held their holiday services in a newly built synagogue. The room was packed with smiles of joy.

"I think it's a communal thing, the community comes together to celebrate a special holiday," Secily Brown said. "The community does this every year, but this is the new synagogue, so it just makes it an even better event."

"We celebrate Hanukkah as eight nights and each night we light a separate candle so by the end of the holiday all eight candles are lit," said Beth Israel member Michael Raff.

"I have a lot of Jewish friends and to be able to light candles with everyone else, it's good," said Beth Israel member Secily Brown.

Young members had a chance to shine as they performed songs for the entire congregation. And the festivities would not have been complete without an array of sweets and fried latkes.

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