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On the shortest day of the year, Beit Am, the mid valley’s Jewish community, gathered together to light candles in recognition of the sixth day of Hanukkah. Members of the community also ate latkes, sang and danced as part of one of their largest events of the year.

Rabbi Benjamin Barnett said lighting the candles, and the contemplation of the light, was the ritual at the heart of the group’s celebration.

“In this darkest time of year, we kindle light … that’s a representation of what we are trying to do spiritually,” he said.

Barnett, who has been with Corvallis-based Beit Am for eight years, said the Hanukkah celebration, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the best-attended events in the community. However, he said, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more centered on ritual, so the Hanukkah celebration is one of the most social events for the community. He added that it draws in Jewish people in the area who are otherwise not involved with Beit Am.

“This is a nice and accessible event for people to come and connect,” he said.

Barnett added that Hanukkah is usually celebrated in the home, so the event Sunday night, which was held at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Corvallis, is special.

“This is the only night during Hanukkah when we get together,” he said.

This year, organizers planned for 150 people to attend the celebration.

Mimi Orzech, a founder of Beit Am, described the event as a joyous celebration.

“It’s a gathering of the whole Jewish community,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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