Tammy Normal of West York had never seen a bowling-pin menorah before.
The candles rested in holes drilled in the top of plastic pins, waiting to be kindled as the sun set on the first night of Hanukkah.
"It's funny. I like it," Normal said of the oversized candelabra.
Normal and her family joined 40 other people Sunday at the Suburban Bowlerama in York Township for a Hanukkah-themed bowling party.
Family members took turns pitching bowling balls down the lanes. Between sets, they munched on potato latkes and kosher cookies shaped like dreidels. Hanukkah songs played from ceiling speakers.
The party was a first for Sue and Elliott Weinstein of Springettsbury Township.
"I asked him, 'Have you ever been to a Hanukkah bowling party?' He said, 'I've been to Hanukkah parties, and I've been bowling. But never Hanukkah bowling,'" Sue said of Elliott.
Rabbi Elazar Green, who organized the celebration, crafted the menorah from toy bowling pins from Toys 'R Us.
He got the party idea from similar community events organized by others in Chabad, an international outreach organization with more than 3,700 centers run by Hasidic Jews.
Shortly after sundown, the partygoers gathered around the bowling-pin menorah to light the first of eight candles.
Green recited three blessings in Hebrew and led the crowd in a loud rendition of the traditional Hanukkah song "Maoz Tzur."
On each successive night, Jews observing Hanukkah will light another candle, so that by the last night, eight are glowing brightly in celebration of an eight-day miracle.
According to tradition, that miracle is that a day's worth of oil lit the menorah of the ancient Jewish Temple for eight.
"Symbolically, light represents goodness and what the Jews were fighting for in Jerusalem -- religious freedom," Green said. "The nature of light is that a little bit of light can push away a lot of darkness."
One celebrant, Milana Leshinsky, 35, of Springettsbury Township came to the U.S. 16 years ago from the Ukraine seeking just that -- religious freedom after a lifetime of ethnic persecution.
Raised in the Soviet Union, she couldn't observe Hanukkah or any other Jewish holiday. Now, she wants her children, 14-year-old Brandon and 8-year-old Anna, to understand their religious heritage, she said.
She brought them bowling Sunday to enjoy a Hanukkah event outside of their synagogue, Congregation Degel Israel in Lancaster.
"When I grew up, we really didn't have a place to belong," Leshinsky said. "I did not even know how to celebrate Hanukkah until we came here."
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting at sundown Dec. 21 this year. In Hebrew, "Hanukkah" means "dedication."
On each night of the holiday, the Hanukkah menorah is lit to commemorate a miracle that occurred after the Maccabees proclaimed victory over the Syrian armies in the second century B.C.
The Maccabees were a first- and second-century B.C. family that brought about the restoration of Jewish religious and political life.
When Jews came to rededicate the Temple, which had been defiled by the Syrians, they found only one small flask of oil with which to light the menorah.
This flask contained only enough oil for one day, but the lamp burned for eight, by which time a fresh supply of oil was obtained.
Chabad of York, www.jewishyork.com
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