WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) —Most of us have a common picture of what we think Hanukkah looks like: dreidels, deep fried potato cakes, eight days of presents, and of course the lighting of the menorah. Historically, Hanukkah recognizes the rededication of the Temple in 165 B.C. by freedom fighters called the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians.
For Wichita Falls resident Larry Simpson, Hanukkah is much more than just games and good food. It all goes back to faith.
“The significance of it is that God is there whether you’re going to acknowledge it or not.”
Despite growing up as a young Jewish boy in the Bible Belt, Larry says celebrating Hanukkah has never been a problem in this community. In fact, his wife Pam of 38 years is a catholic.
“I have no problem going to a catholic mass and participating, obviously my prayers are different but they’re the same, we’re all looking the same direction.”
Many of the common associations with Hanukkah are true. During their planned Hanukkah celebration on Friday night at the Synagogue House of Jacob, Larry says they perform a prayer and readings from the Torah, each family brings and lights their menorah, then they play a fun game of dreidel with the kids. Larry is even taking a stab at making traditional Sufganiyots (deep fried, jelly-filled donuts) for the first time this year.
Yet, people remain unaware of the true meanings behind certain Hanukkah traditions, such as gift giving.
“In reality, Hanukkah is supposed to be not about me celebrating and getting gifts, but it’s about me on each of the eight days giving gifts to somebody who can really benefit from the gift…Again that’s that thing about God is present and how we make him more present, how we become more aware of the miracles that are going on around us, and it’s by doing mitzvahs, by doing good deeds.”
One person benefiting from those good deeds, is Larry’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Aliyah who got presents from both Hanukkah and Christmas.
While there is a Jewish community in Wichita Falls, it’s a small one. Larry says he encourages Jewish folks and other people to come out and celebrate with them.
“It’d be wonderful if everybody did. It’d be wonderful if all Jews came to temple, we’re there every Friday night.”
This Jewish holiday holds many meanings to people of all faiths. For Larry, it’s about recognizing God and his miracles everyday. For young Aliyah, it means:
“God makes all the joy and all the love everyone can wish for.”