DURHAM (WTVD) -- There were plenty of smiling faces at Sunday's Hanukkah Festival at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham. Traditional delicacies, games, and music helped make it a special occasion for all ages.
Shayna Whitney, 10, had a great time with her parents. She's aware that gifts are given as part of the observance.
"Although it's not all about the presents, it's really a nice holiday to celebrate," she told ABC11. "I also like the latkes and the food."
ABC11 was inside the kitchen where those latkes were prepared. Shayna also explained the significance of Hanukkah to the Jewish community, a tradition that began centuries ago.
"They wanted to light their menorah and they only had one bottle of oil. And they lit the candle," said Shayna.
Jill Madsen, the Jewish Foundation of Durham-Chapel Hill's CEO, continued: "Remembering our story of when we didn't have enough oil, and the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. That's why Hanukkah takes place for eight days."
They welcome everyone reading or watching this story to participate: "To help educate the broader community of the Jewish religion and culture, and provide opportunities for the Jewish community to come together and celebrate."
But they're also aware of the recent appearance of swastikas and other expressions of intolerance on some walls, in private driveways and online. Haaretz.com reports a 35 percent increase in hate crimes during the past year, with most of the known incidents since Election Day targeting Jews.
"There definitely has been a rise of anti-Semitism that we've heard about, locally and elsewhere," said Madsen." That's why it's more important to us to make sure the community knows we have a strong, vibrant Jewish community here. This is a safe place, and everyone is welcome."
They're also reaching out to the larger community by collecting diapers for a local diaper bank. Donations are accepted at the center, 1937 W. Cornwallis Road, now through December 25th.