FORT WORTH -- Judd Vermillion put a fresh coat of paint this week on the 8-foot menorah he built for his southwest Fort Worth synagogue.
It will be illuminated Tuesday as part of a community Hanukkah celebration hosted by the 119-year-old Congregation Ahavath Sholom.
Bishop Kevin W. Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price are expected to participate.
The lighting ceremony is on the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, which begins at sundown. The holiday, also rendered from Hebrew as Chanukah, commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over an army of Syrians and Greeks in 165 B.C.
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During the holiday, families light one candle each night in a menorah, or chanukiah, using an extra candle called a shamos. They also exchange gifts.
The beginning of the holiday falls later on the calendar this year, nearly three weeks after the Dec. 1 start in 2010. The starting date fluctuates from late November to late December because it follows the Jewish or Hebrew calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.
Vermillion, technical director at Texas Christian University's theater department, made the synagogue's chanukiah several years ago out of steel, with yard lights he painted yellow. After it is lit manually the first night, a timer will turn on the rest of the lights at sundown. He is also building a raffle-ticket box in the shape of an authentic dreidel, a four-sided spinning top used to play a Hanukkah game.
At the synagogue's event, everyone is invited for a dinner of latkes -- potato pancakes served with sour cream and apple sauce. There will also be dancing and musical performances. Attendees are also invited to bring their own chanukiahs plus two candles.
"We have a brand-new rabbi, and we thought this was a great way to start off the new year, and our synagogue is just humming," said Debbie Rice, the congregation's interim executive director. "It's nice to have joyous occasions and celebrate with lots of people. We hope that they walk out with a full stomach and hope in their hearts, and a smile on their face in the hope of having a wonderful holiday season."
Rabbi Andrew Bloom, who arrived in August to serve the 350-family congregation, said he wants the synagogue to be an "integral part of the larger society" through interfaith dialogue, multicultural celebrations and invitations to area dignitaries.
Last week, Bloom and Vann discussed having Tarrant County clergy meet monthly to get to know one another.
Plans also include creating an annual interfaith and ecumenical service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and eventually having Bloom give a homily or sermon at a church and a representative of Vann's speak at the synagogue, Bloom said.
"The holiday of Hanukkah is about cultural identity, religious freedom and the miracles that God brings us in our everyday life," Bloom said. "So why not share that light with the entire community?"
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326