BANGOR, Maine — Alan Cobo-Lewis has read a story about a runaway latke to his children every Hanukkah since they were very young.
The story is similar to one about a runaway gingerbread man, Cobo-Lewis, whose family lives in Orono, said.
This year, his 11-year-old twins, Rosie and Benjamin Cobo-Lewis, decided to act out the story for a variety show at Congregation Beth El.
“I’m the narrator,” the Orono father said Tuesday night as members of the shul on French Street gobbled down latkes — fried potato pancakes — with applesauce and sour cream. “Instead of listening to their father act it out, [Rosie] and her friends decided they would act it out.”
The variety show originally was scheduled for Dec. 21, the second night of Hanukkah. Because of a winter storm that caused hazardous driving conditions, the show was rescheduled for the last night of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 B.C. after the temple had been destroyed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria. The oil found in the temple should have lasted just one day but miraculously burned for eight.
The holiday lasts eight days, with an additional candle in a menorah lit each night. It is a minor religious holiday, but its December celebration has given it more significance as a cultural tradition, especially in Western countries where Christmas and all its religious and secular trappings dominate public and private activities.
The first Hanukkah gifts were in the form of coins, nuts and sweets that families in Eastern Europe used hundreds of years ago as they played with the dreidel. Spinning the dreidel, or top, is a popular Hanukkah game in which each player takes turns trying to acquire the treats heaped in the kitty.
Like Passover, it is a holiday centered in the home but American synagogues often hold an event during the week for the entire congregation and the larger community.
Children who attend Congregation Beth El brought friends who are not Jewish to take part in the show. David Buterbaugh assisted his best friend, Jake Steinhoff, in performing magic tricks. Jake received a magic kit for Hanukkah.
“We’re called ‘Fedora Magic,’” he said a few minutes before the show began, pointing to the hats the boys, both 12 and from Orrington, planned to wear. “All the magic came in one box, so I can’t saw him in half but he will levitate.”
Rabbi Darah Lerner said the show was the first at the synagogue in “many a moon.”
There was so much excitement inside Beth El on Tuesday night that it just might become a tradition, she said.