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Lighting the menorah in Peoria

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Peoria, Ill. (WEEK) - Sunday night marked the start of Chanukah for families across the world. A large group gathered to light the first candle of the menorah in Peoria.

It's a celebration that truly takes the cake and fills everyone's hearts with love. From lighting the menorah to singing and dancing together, the first night of Chanukah shines a positive light for everyone.

"We are sending the message that we should bring more light into this world," said Rabbi Eli Langsam, Chabad Jewish Center of Peoria Director. "That will dispel the darkness that we find ourselves in."

Organizers say one of the biggest misconceptions is that Chanukah is a Jewish Christmas.

"It is truly a military victory by the Maccabees fighting the Romans for religious freedom," said Susan Katz, Jewish Federation of Peoria Executive Director. "It's not the Jewish Christmas and not one of the most important holidays on our religious calendar. The reason people have heard about it is because it falls close to Christmas."

The large celebration was the first of its kind for the River City.

"This was a joint effort of Congregation Anshai Emeth, Congregation Agudas Achim and the Federation. We probably put this together in under a month," Katz said.

A hard task for anyone, but the mission was accomplished with help from many volunteers.

"This clearly is all aspects of the Jewish community coming together to celebrate," said Dr. Steven Marx, Congregation Anshai Emeth President. "It's a really exciting thing for me to see."

Many like Steven Marx enjoy watching the menorah lights grow brighter each night. Marx says every family gets to create their own unique experience.

"It's really exciting to see and by the eighth night we turn off all the lights and light them all, which really lights up our dining room when we eat dinner. That's my favorite part," Marx said.

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Mike Miletich

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