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Hanukkah

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Like any holiday, Hanukkah deserves a special dinner, something beyond the ordinary but not too far away from the traditional. Along with the potato latkes and doughnuts, the spinning of the dreidel and the Hanukkah gelt for the kids, there is that moment when families and friends gather to celebrate and share their holiday joy around the table. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a nice roasted chicken or a pot roast or hearty winter stew that everybody loves. But how about changing it up a little and doing a duck breast or sweet and sour brisket or Hungarian goulash? 

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

Duck Breasts with Orange Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 approximately half-pound duck breasts

2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

¾ cup orange juice

¼ cup honey

¼ cup soy sauce

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh orange slices for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Score fatty side of each duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern of approximately 1-inch squares. In a large resealable plastic bag combine zest, juice, honey, soy sauce and pepper. Add duck, turn to coat evenly, and reseal bag. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably 8 or overnight. Remove breasts from bag; set marinade aside. Place duck in a large heavy skillet; do not preheat. Frequently moving pieces around, cook over low heat, skin side down, and turning once, until fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cover and continue cooking until thermometer inserted in thickest part reads 120 F for medium rare (about 3 to 5 minutes), longer for more well done. 

Transfer to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour fat from skillet and discard or save for later use; replace with marinade; simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Place duck on platter, spoon sauce over it and garnish with orange slices. Serve with wild rice, Brussels sprouts and a good red wine.

Sweet and Sour Brisket

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2½ pounds beef brisket

1 onion sliced thin

Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

1 bay leaf

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup very hot water

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 to 6 gingersnaps (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Place meat in heavy pot or Dutch oven; add remaining ingredients, except gingersnaps. Cover and simmer 2½ to 3 hours, until tender. Taste and add more sugar or lemon juice as needed to balance the sweet and sour. If using, break up gingersnaps and stir into liquid from roast to thicken it a little. Slice and serve with sweet potatoes, green beans and carrots.

Hungarian Goulash

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds chuck, cut into 1½-inch cubes

2 tablespoons melted vegetable shortening or oil

6 cups beef stock

2 garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon paprika

DIRECTIONS:

Stirring constantly, brown meat in hot fat. Add stock, garlic, bay leaf, salt and paprika. Simmer slowly, 2½ hours; remove bay leaf and discard. Serve with broad noodles or mashed potatoes, cabbage or cauliflower and pickled beets.

Children enjoy last year's Menorah Lighting in Stony Brook. Photo by Peter DiLauro
Happy Hanukkah! Celebrate the Festival of Lights at the following events:

Centereach

The Centereach Civic Association invites the community to its annual menorah lighting on the lawn of Capital One Bank, 2100 Middle Country Road, Centereach on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 7 to 8 p.m. Rain/snow date is Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Visit www.centereachcivic.org.

Dix Hills

The Chai Center, 501 Vanderbilt Parkway, Dix Hills will hold its annual outdoor grand menorah lighting ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 5 starting at 4:30 p.m. Enjoy latkes, doughnuts, hot chocolate, music and a special performance by comic hypnotist Ronnie Baras. RSVP by calling 631-351-8672.

Farmingville

Join the Town of Brookhaven for a menorah lighting at Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville on Monday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. followed by entertainment, hot latkes and doughnuts in the second floor cafeteria. Call 631-451-6100 for more information.

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce will host a menorah lighting at Veterans Plaza, 1 Church St., Kings Park on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. Visit www.kingsparkli.com.

Lake Ronkonkoma

Celebrate the holidays with a menorah lighting at Raynor Park, Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma at Sunday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce. Call 631-963-2796 for further details.

Mount Sinai

Temple Beth Emeth will host the annual Heritage Trust Menorah Lighting at Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Questions? Call 631-928-4103.

Nesconset

Join the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce for its annual menorah lighting at Gazebo Park, 127 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Call 631-724-2543 for details.

Port Jefferson Station

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will host its annual menorah lighting at the Chamber Train Car, corner of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway, on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 4 to 5 p.m. Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center will perform the blessings/prayer for the first night of Hanukkah. Call 631-821-1313.

St. James

The community is invited to the St. James 2018 menorah lighting ceremony at The Triangle, Route 25A and Lake Ave., St. James from Dec. 2 to 9 at 5:30 p.m. (Friday night lighting at 4:30 p.m.) Call 631-584-8510.

Stony Brook

Join Chabad at Stony Brook for a Hanukkah on Main Street celebration at the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, 48 Main St., Stony Brook on Monday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. with latkes, donuts, giveaways, a fire juggling show and music followed by the lighting of a menorah. Call 631-585-0521.

By Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky. Photo by Donna Newman

I like Christmas. There, I said it. This may be surprising for some people to hear from a rabbi, and it may be misinterpreted by others. But it’s true. I like the feeling of this time of year. I enjoy the songs, the lights, watching Charlie Brown and the Grinch and especially the sense of good will that exists.

I also like Hanukkah. I enjoy the gathering of family and friends, eating latkes (fried potato pancakes), lighting the Hanukkah menorah (9-branched candelabrum), playing dreidel (a spinning top game) and feeling a sense of warmth and light in the coldest, darkest time of the year.

But my enjoyment of both holidays does not mean that I see them in the same way. It does not mean that I view Hanukkah as the Jewish Christmas. While I can enjoy aspects of both holidays, I am keenly aware of the need for both Christians and Jews to maintain a distinction between the two holidays, while also embracing a healthy respect for and appreciation of the practices of the other’s religion. And this begins, I am convinced, with a full understanding of what both holidays celebrate.

It is not for me to expound on the true meaning of Christmas. My Christian colleagues are much more equipped to do so. But I do know that the true religious significance of Christmas has little to do with trees and presents, songs and holiday foods. While these are lovely ways to enhance the enjoyment of a holiday, they should not replace the spiritual lessons taught.

By the same token, Hanukkah, which I am qualified to write about, is not about spinning tops, fried foods and gift giving, though these are all fun customs. It is about the story of a small group of Jews, the Maccabees, well over 2,000 years ago, winning the right to practice their religion freely, symbolized by the rededication of the holy Temple (“Hanukkah” means “dedication”). This episode has nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas, and only happens to fall at the same season because it was common to hold festivals of light at this time of the year. Hanukkah is a stirring story of freedom, but it nonetheless remains a minor festival in the Jewish calendar. Its elevation to a level of such prominence is due solely to the fact that it is marketed to compete with Christmas from a commercial standpoint. And this speaks to a problem in our society in general, as well as presenting a challenge for Christians, Jews and all people of faith alike.

I address this issue to a general audience, rather than specifically to my congregation, because I believe that it is important for all people of faith, whatever their religion or heritage, to reclaim the true meaning of their holy days. Rather than falsely seeking to unite ourselves through the idol of materialism, focusing on the trappings of the various holidays, let us instead form a true bond with one another by each celebrating our respective holy days and recognizing their real significance. By doing so, we strengthen our own religious conviction and are then able to enjoy the beauty and teachings of other faiths without feeling that our own faith is undermined.

I, for one, am opposed to calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree. I am opposed to Christians feeling pressured to water down their religious beliefs because others may feel offended. But I am also opposed to anyone who mistakes proud displays of faith with the right to impose such faith on others. Celebrating Christmas, or any holy day, should be encouraged, as long as it is done with the understanding that we all choose to practice, or not practice, our faith in different ways.

Ironically, for me, Christmas helps reinforce the true message of Hanukkah, just as the true message of Hanukkah, I believe, strengthens the celebration of Christmas. We are so fortunate in our community and country to have the freedom to worship and celebrate freely. May we appreciate this freedom by expressing ourselves appropriately, while also embracing those of other faiths who choose to do the same, but in a different way. By so doing, we will truly find warmth and light at this season.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

By Rita J. Egan

Chabad at Stony Brook hosted a menorah lighting Dec. 18 on the lawn of the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn located on the corner of Main Street and Harbor Road. The nine-foot menorah was sponsored and organized by the Chabad.

The festivities began with a parade of cars escorted by the Suffolk County Police Department. Each participant’s vehicle was adorned with a menorah on top, and attendees of the event enjoyed latkes with applesauce, hot cocoa and doughnuts.

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum addressed the crowd before lighting the giant menorah with the assistance of the inn’s owners Marty and Elyse Buchman.

After the lighting, a gelt drop was held, and Grossbaum stepped onto a cherry picker and threw wrapped chocolate coins from 25 feet above for children to collect.

Three Village residents were treated to a local holiday favorite Dec. 10 as the Three Village Holiday Electric Parade traveled down the streets of East Setauket. The parade kicked off at 5 p.m. with a variety of vehicles and floats adorned with lights that added a festive feel to the chilly night. Presented by the Three Village Kiwanis Club, the event featured floats from students from the Three Village Central School District and the participation of Scout troops and various businesses and organizations from the area, including Shine Dance Studios and North Shore Jewish Center. Cheerleaders, pep squad members, athletes and Stony Brook University mascot Wolfie also participated. After the parade, families gathered at the Kiwanis Park next to Se-Port Deli for the chance to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrived in a train replica decorated with colorful lights.

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By Rabbi Aaron Benson

 

You’re as likely to hear someone bemoaning the commercialization of the holidays as you are to hear someone wish you happy ones. As we enter this festive season, it can be a challenge to properly “get in the spirit” to think of the blessings and good things we have when at the same time we hear constantly the calls around us that we need more of this or that.

Rabbi Aaron Benson

For Jews, there is one way in which the holiday of Hanukkah is supposed to be “commercialized” — or at least “advertised.” Jewish tradition decrees the Hanukkah menorah, the nine-branched candelabra by which we mark the holiday using its central candle to light an additional new candle each night of the eight-day holiday, should be placed in a prominent place so that others can see it. Therefore, you will often see menorah displays in front of synagogues or in the windows of Jews’ home, and in Israel, one will often see menorahs displayed in small glass boxes outside of people’s homes.

The lights of the menorah are meant to remind us of three things. First, they are to be a light in the darkness of winter. Second, they are to remind us of the lights of the seven-branched menorah that was a decoration in the Holy Temple in ancient times, and third, they remind us of the story of Hanukkah, when in the 2nd century BCE the Jews defeated the Greek occupiers of their country and, as tradition would have it, a single vial of pure oil was discovered and lasted for eight days while additional oil was prepared to be used in the temple.

Incidentally, this is where the name of the holiday originates as the word “Hanukkah” means “rededication.” However, it was not just lighting the menorah that was considered sufficient for celebrating the holiday. Our ancient sages decreed that the miracle of Hanukkah must be “advertised,” it must be put on display and shared with others so that the hard-won blessing of religious freedom and tolerance the holiday commemorates could be experienced by all people. This is a Hanukkah lesson we can all share.

We are all blessed to live in a country in which our religious differences are protected and in fact we believe that these and all our many differences are what make the United States such a wonderful country. Let us be proud then, when we see the many lights of this holiday season, for all of them, whether Hanukkah lights or not, communicate the message of Hanukkah — the message of our religious freedom.

The author is the rabbi at the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

Kate Keating and Austin Morgan in a scene from ‘Frosty.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

The holidays are upon us and that means it’s time for “Frosty” to come to life at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Under the direction of Richard T. Dolce, the annual production, with a spirited cast of five adult actors, presents a lively show with song and dance that is perfect for its target audience.

Uber-talented Kate Keating reprises her role as Jenny, a young girl living in the town of Chillsville who loves the snow and loves winter. With the help of her mother, lovingly played by Courtney Fekete, Jenny builds a snowman who magically comes alive, and the duo are quickly best pals. Making his Engeman debut, Austin Morgan is a terrific Frosty and quickly connects with the audience, especially after he dances to “It’s Your Birthday.”

Jen Casey is the villain Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow-free so she can build a new factory. Her weather machine starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. With the help of the audience, Ethel Pierpot’s plan is foiled and, after a thrilling chase scene through the theater and an intense snowball fight, the machine is turned off.

From the very beginning the theatergoers become part of the show, thanks to the efforts of the narrator, Michael Verre, who guides the audience through the story with comedic genius. Verre draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Asking a full house last Sunday how to stop Ethel Pierpot from turning Frosty into a puddle of water, Verre received some creative suggestions, including have Frosty “go to a new town where there’s plenty of snow,” “put Frosty in an ice cream truck” and “reverse the machine to cold.” At the end of the show, all the children are asked to wish for snow to keep Frosty from melting and are rewarded for their efforts.

There was magic in the air at the Engeman Theater that morning — yes, a snowman came to life and, yes, it snowed inside the theater. But even more magical than that were the priceless expressions of joy, excitement and wonderment on the faces of the children in the audience.

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.

Take your child or grandchild to see “Frosty” and let them experience the magic of live theater. They will love you for it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Frosty” through Jan. 3. Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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By Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel

When I was growing up, Hanukkah was literally a “festival of many lights!” As the oldest of six children, my parents gave each one of us our own chanukiyah. (Note: A menorah is any multibranched candelabra. A chanukiyah is a menorah specifically designated for Hanukkah. It has nine candle holders: one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, plus one for the “shammash” — the helper candle that is used to light the other candles.)

Every morning during Hanukkah, each of us would carefully choose which color candles we were going to light that night. My mother placed a table in front of one of our living room windows with all of the chanukiyot (plural form of chanukiyah) circled strategically around. The mitzvah — the commandment — of Hanukkah is to publicize the miracle. Hence the directive to light the candles in a window. My siblings and I loved watching all those candles burn and glow!

I have a collection of many beautiful and unique chanukiyot now. But the one I still use every year on Hanukkah is the one I used growing up, the one I inherited from my mother. It is not beautiful, but it takes me back to my childhood, it reminds me of my mother and helps make me feel as if she is part of my Hanukkah celebration, even though she is no longer alive. That feeling helps the flame of my candles glow even more brightly.

It is no accident that Hanukkah, our festival of lights, occurs during December. These are some of the darkest days/nights of the year: We are approaching the winter solstice. Once again, Hanukkah reminds us that during the darkest time of the year, we human beings have the power to kindle lights against the darkness. We have the power to brighten the lives of others.

For those who celebrate Hanukkah, let me suggest that we can make the flames of our own Hanukkah candles burn even more brightly by dedicating at least one of the nights of our own Hanukkah celebration to a family tzedakah (social justice/charity) project instead of giving gifts to each other. The word tzedakah comes from the root tzedek — which means “justice” and “righteousness.” We don’t simply give tzedakah because it makes us feel good, but rather out of our sense of responsibility to God and to taking care of others in the world around us.

There are a number of different provisions for tzedakah outlined in the Jewish tradition. They all center around one basic principle: No matter what form our tzedakah takes, we must make sure that we never compromise anyone’s dignity, honor or self-respect. In fact, the highest form of tzedakah is when we can help someone to help themselves, so that they will no longer be dependent upon the help of others.

This year, may the light of the Hanukkah candles ignite the spark of justice, passion for human rights and freedom for all.

Chag Urim Sameach! May you have a Happy Festival of Lights!

Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel is the Rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

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