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Jews Celebrating Hanukkah, Growth

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RALEIGH — Triangle Jews are in the midst ofcelebrating Hanukkah, a festive holiday that is marked by the nightlylighting of menorah candles and the exchange of gifts. But they have moreto celebrate -- their numbers in the area are increasing.

Enrollment at Hillel Day School is three times what it was seven yearsago. A portable classroom has been added. Kids are learning dances andsongs, and making paper dredels. A dredel is a toy similar to a top.

The Jewish Community Center opened its doors a year and a half ago; itadded an after school program just a few months ago.

"People definitely want a place to call home," said JCC OperationsDirector Jodi Gore. "They want a connectedness. And being able to bepart of a congregation, of a synagogue or temple, is wonderful, itprovides a lot to them.

"We provide something different," Gore said, "because weprovide something that is not only religiously oriented but alsorecreationally oriented."

Four years ago, Mazel Tov opened its doors. Susan Kosten is owner ofthe gift shop, and she says customers are not only Jewish.

"Everyone has a Jewish friend or relative, so we take care of the giftsfor all of the life events -- weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, births. Soeveryone shops with us," Kosten said.

Rabbi Pinchas Herman of Sha-Arei Israel-Lubavitch says the growth ofsynagogues and organizations helps newcomers.

"I think they are making a greater effort to affiliate with Jewishorganizations. I think it helps people settle into the community," RabbiHerman said.

And, connecting to Jews the world over, an internet page has been addedfrom Jerusalem, where it covered the lighting of the first candle for thisyear's Festival of Lights celebration. To see Hanukkah in cyberspace, goto www.virtual.co.il/.

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