Hanukkah celebration to encourage rededication to faith in trying times

A festival is set to begin at sundown today and all are welcome.

Hanukkah, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, commences this evening and with it ushers in eight nights of family, faith and fellowship for those in the Jewish community. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians.

The spiritual leaders of the Lev Hashem Messianic Jewish Synagogue, 3644 N. Rancho Drive, suites 101 and 102, preach for the congregation to rededicate themselves to their faith during the time.

Services are planned for 7 p.m. today, Friday and Dec. 27. Guests are invited to bring their Hanukiah, or menorah, the nine-branch lamp stand, to light together during the three worship services.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” synagogue worship leader Karen Gloyd said.

Gloyd has arranged the musical selections for the holiday. A special choir called a zamir chorale is slated to perform during services. A children’s choir is also scheduled to sing.

Performances from the synagogue’s dance team are set to showcase special Israeli and Messianic dances.

The sanctuary will be specially decorated for Hanukkah, and imagery of lights will be prevalent, Gloyd said.

“One of the things that’s key to Hanukkah is God fighting our battles for us,” she said. “With the economy, job loss, people having health issues, this is a time we can pull together and celebrate our faith and know God has our back.”

Whether or not you practice a different denomination than the sect, Rabbi Shmuel Oppenheim said the doors of the synagogue are open for those whose curiosity is piqued.

“It’s a Festival of Lights,” he said. “Yeshua said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And he meant it.”

Messianic Judaism differs from traditional Judiasm in that Messianic Jews believe in and worship Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus. The religious movement is a congregational expression of evangelical Christian and Jewish beliefs and rituals.

To narrow the scope, part of the vision of Lev Hashem Messianic Jewish Synagogue is to “worship and to live as a mishpochah (community) made up of Jew and Gentile that observe the Holy Scriptures within the context of Jewish life, culture, and terminology,” according to the synagogue.

Oppenheim said congregation members are from all faiths but are united in their “sense of Jewish roots.” Community is emphasized, he said, and forced conversion is not.

Although the branch can be a hotbed among Orthodox Jews, Oppenheim said, “We have not converted religions.”

Shabbat is observed on Fridays and Saturdays, respect of the Torah is kept and Messianic Jews emphasize dietary laws.

Oppenheim entered the faith in 1972, he said, while in Israel. He was a spiritual leader in El Paso, Texas, for decades before moving west.

He still dons cowboy boots and hat, albeit over his kippah, or yarmulke.

“I tell people I’m a real live, honest to goodness Jewish cowboy,” he said.

Lev Hashem Messianic Jewish Synagogue formed in 1994 and is the largest congregation of Messianic Jews, Oppenheim said. Oppenheim joined in 2004.

“As soon as I flew into Las Vegas, I had such a strong sense this is where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “There is a sense of family.”

Congregant Paula Feinbaum said she also was compelled to get involved with the community-centric synagogue when she moved from California six years ago.

“It was important to me to be in a congregation,” said Feinbaum, who serves as office manager and rabbi’s secretary.

The congregation is about 200 strong, but Oppenheim said many visitors and tourists attend services.

“People come and people go but we’re often told how special we are,” she said.

Feinbaum will be performing with the dance team this weekend.

In addition to the special Hanukkah services, husband-and-wife team Barry and Batya Segal are slated to perform during services at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday and during a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday .

For more information, visit levhashem.org or call 869-8983.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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