Durham synagogue works to construct giant menorahs for outdoor ceremonies during pandemic

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – This holiday season will be unlike any other because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Religious ceremonies are being rethought because of the virus.

“We had this challenge of how do you keep the candles lit and also how do you do it so that 25 people can see from some distance,” said Rabbi Daniel Greyber with Beth El Synagogue in Durham.

It just so happens that Beth El has a metal worker in its congregation. Take that, add some willing teenagers, and all you have to do is just look up and see all the possibilities. Nine feet to be exact.

“There’s so much of their life which is on Zoom right now that the ability to go in and to work with someone and to get your hands dirty, not burned, but to work with your hands has been an amazing relief,” Greyber said.

Together, they are constructing a giant menorah. Each light will be lit one night at a time during Hanukkah’s eight nights. The outdoor ceremony allows 25 people at a time — socially distanced and masked — to be part of what would normally would be done indoors.

The world is feeling a desperate need for a light out of such darkness, which is no different than those who came before us.

“Knowing that these lights have sort of traveled 2,000 years through the millennia can remind us unfortunately that this isn’t the first pandemic. It probably won’t be the last, and it can help us to have a little bit of perspective that others have made it through difficult times like this, and we can, too,” Greyber said.

As we do, stress, worry, anger, and hope will all perhaps lead us to what will be more like the sun rather than the storm.

“I want 2021 to be a year in which we can return to normalcy, but we can also return better and hopefully with more of a commitment to each other and to the world around us.”

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