With the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah beginning at sundown on Dec. 8, Johnstown Area Heritage Association is offering a cooking class and hands-on workshop at Heritage Discovery Center to give adults and children an opportunity to learn more about the joyous celebration.
No holiday is complete without food, and a special cooking demonstration will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the education center at 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
Barbara Rosenberg of Westmont and a member of Beth Sholom Congregation, 700 Indiana St., Westmont, will demonstrate how to make rugelach.
Traditional rugelach is made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around filling. However, Rosenberg is offering a recipe to cut preparation time to achieve similar results.
“To save time, I will have my rugelach in each step of the process,” Rosenberg said.
“I was taught years ago to roll out the dough, add my filling and form it into a long streusel or log,” she said.
“It is sliced into cookie-size widths and the pretty center gives the rugelach a festive look.”
She will offer two varieties. One contains seedless raspberry jam, cinnamon, sugar, minced walnuts and raisins.
The second will feature apricot jam filling and white raisins, along with the walnuts, cinnamon and sugar.
“I will have some to share with those people who come to the demonstration,” she said.
“This flaky, light treat would go with any celebration.”
It also is an opportunity for people to learn about the history of the dish and how it relates to Hanukkah.
“People will get a great pastry recipe and a sample of the finished product,” said Shelley Johansson, director of communications and marketing for JAHA.
The educational center has ample seating and is equipped with an oven and a kitchenette.
At the Johnstown Children’s Museum, a mother-daughter team from Upper Yoder Township will offer a hands-on workshop to celebrate the Hanukkah observance at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Fourteen-year-old Helen Stern, with the help of her mother, Bea Stern, will lead a presentation to explain the origin and meaning of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, and some of its symbols.
“We’ll light a menorah, taste Hanukkah treats and play the traditional dreidel game,” said Bea Stern.
“We will use a picture book to explain the origin and meaning of Hanukkah and some of its symbols.”
The central theme of Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees, a small group of ancient Hebrews, over ancient Greek forces that had pillaged the country and defiled the temple in Jerusalem.
After the Greeks were defeated, the Jews could find only one remaining jar of consecrated oil for the lamp at the temple.
It should have lasted less than a single day, but burned for eight days.
The menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum with eight candles, symbolizes the miraculous lighting of the temple lamp.
“Children will make a Hanukkah craft, and everyone will go home with a little bit of Hanukkah gelt,” Stern said.
The youngsters also will receive Hanukkah gelt.
The tradition of giving gelt, or Hanukkah coins, to children began in Europe in the Middle Ages.
“In this case, the gelt will be in the form of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil,” Bea Stern said.
The dreidel is a spinning top with a different letter on each of its four sides. The letters are the first initials of the words in the phrase Nes, Gadol, Haya and Sham, meaning “a great miracle happened there,” referring to the Maccabean victory.
“The children’s program serves a dual purpose,” Johansson said.
“For children of the Jewish faith, it’s a fun way to make this part of their holiday celebration, and for those not of the Jewish tradition, it offers a glimpse at how other cultures observe traditions.”
Hanukkah continues through Dec. 16.
The activities, programs and exhibition are part of JAHA’s yearlong Johnstown Jewish Community Project.
The center’s current exhibit is titled “Remembrance: 125 Years of Jewish Life in Johnstown.”
The exhibition explores the rich history of Johnstown’s Jewish community.
What: Hanukkah cooking class, workshop.
Where: Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
When: Cooking class at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Children’s program at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Cost Cooking class, $7 for adults and $5 for students. Workshop is free for JAHA members, or a regular admission for nonmembers of $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for students.