AMHERST N.Y. (WIVB) — The Jewish community in Western New York is kicking off the holiday season with the start of Hanukkah.

“This is the time where people will gather, they’ll light their candles with their different generations and family, and that hasn’t been able to happen in the same way, certainly not last year,” said Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein from Congregation Shir Shalom.

Congregation Shir Shalom held a menorah lighting ceremony over zoom Sunday night. Then on Friday they’ll have an in-person celebration.

“I would say this holiday is a little bit more normal to what we have done in previous years. We’re having a big gathering Friday night for our service of Shabbat and we expect over a hundred people there.” Rabbi Lazarus-Klein.

The Chabad House of Buffalo kicked off the first of eight nights of Hanukkah with their traditional lighting of the giant community menorah, that’s located at the Tops Plaza on maple road.

“Being able to have everyone come up to me and everyone being comfortable with it I think it’s very nice,” said Jordan Stern who attended the menorah lighting.

“Last year, especially in the era of drive-in celebrations, we definitely did a drive-in Hanukkah party so to be in-person with people and celebrate the light together was really awesome,” said Vilona Trachtenberg, who attended the menorah lighting.

The Jewish community says although we’re still in a pandemic, this moment was all about shining hope.

“The symbolism of Hanukkah is really the spreading light and warmth and increasing the light,” said Rabbi Moshe Gurary, who’s the Chabad House of Buffalo Director. “So, unfortunately, we’re going through a dark period so the idea of Hanukah gives a lot of hope and light and the message of Hanukkah is light tramps over darkness and even though there a dark times there are good times ahead.”

The Chabad House of Buffalo will have another lighting ceremony Monday night in Niagara square.

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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