Festival of Lights


Residents of all faiths and none are invited to a street party this month, organised by Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue, in celebration of the Jewish festival of Chanukah. Martin Gaba reports

On Sunday 29 December, there will be a bracing diet of free latkes (potato pancakes), doughnuts and hot chocolate as Leytonstone rocks to the live music of Menasche and the Shulhoppers in a street party to mark the eighth night of the Jewish festival of Chanukah (Festival of Lights). This will take place opposite Leytonstone bus station on the planting area at the junction of Fairlop Road, Fillebrook Road and Grove Green Road. All are welcome!

This street party is organised by Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue (LAWS). It will begin with the lighting of a huge candelabra, the Leytonstone Menorah, with nine stems, for the Jewish festival of Chanukah, which runs from 21 to 29 December this year. Starting with two lights, an additional light is lit every night until all nine are switched on, when there will be a splendid spectacle of them all shining forth. After the event, the party will continue with music and refreshments at LAWS.

Chanukah marks a miracle which took place in 167 BCE after a successful Jewish revolution by the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the occupying Greeks, in which they recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem. Every Jewish place of worship has a special light on the whole time to signify the Divine Presence. However, there was only enough oil to light the candle for one night in the Temple. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days until fresh supplies could be brought. Over 2,000 years later, we are still marking this event with small presents, candle-lighting and songs.

LAWS is a small, warm, all-age and inclusive, traditional orthodox Jewish community,  with a congregation right across the Jewish spectrum, from those who have no religious belief to those who are observant. We have a robust and stimulating programme, including weekly explanatory Saturday services followed by a meal, wonderful Friday night dinners attended by up to 35 people, Hebrew tuition and workshops on Jewish topics of cultural and religious interest.

All who want to learn about Judaism – whether they believe in a God or not and just wish to explore Jewish culture or identity – are very welcome to attend.

The Leytonstone Menorah is generously supported by the Highways Agency, Make it Local, the Waltham Forest Borough of Culture, The United Synagogue and the Federation of Synagogues. The menorah was constructed at Design Engineering’s workshop in Leytonstone.

The Chanukah street party will take place opposite Leytonstone bus station on 29 December from 4pm to 6pm (free; open to all). Celebrations will continue at Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue, 2 Fillebrook Road, E11 4AT. For more information, call 07434 631 948 or visit lawsynagogue.org