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‘Latka-Mania’: Saanich Jewish Community Centre celebrates Hanukkah

Two weeks of making latkas, with a recipe that has been going for 33 years
Lina Fainblum and Rose Carr, are a two-women factory, pumping out Latkas over Hanukkah. Carr and Fainblum use a recipe that has been going for 33 years. (News Staff/Tom Eley)

Hanukkah is a day of freedom, said Rose Carr at the Jewish Community Centre, as she scoops latka mixture into a canola oil-filled electric fry pan.

The Jewish Community Centre kicks off the Jewish holiday with what they call “Latka-Maina,” where they close their deli for two weeks and serve Latka, Carr said.

“Latkas are made of potato, onion, eggs and a little bit of flour, and a whole lot of love,” she said.

“It has been three years since the last one. The first two years, it was COVID and then there was a potato shortage last year,” she said.

On day one, Rose and her helper, Lina Fainblum, made more than 20 dozen latkas and they expect it to be busy for the two weeks they sell latkas.

Once Hanukkah has been and gone, the deli and community centre will be closed for two weeks but will be open again in January, Carr said.

Hanukkah is not an overly religious holiday, according to Larry Gontovnick, community centre president, but it is the closest the Jewish community gets to celebrating Christmas.

When the sun set on Dec. 7, the Jewish community lit the first candle on the Menorah, and Jewish children received the first of eight presents over the holiday.

“It’s sort of like the Jewish Christmas and in that, they get their gifts and things are commercialized,” said Gontovnick

There will be various Hanukkah-related events around Greater Victoria, with a public Menorah lighting on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 5 p.m.

Hanukkah celebrates when the Maccabees, a small group of Jewish freedom fighters, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from a larger army 2,000 years ago. While rededicating the temple, they found a jar of oil that burned for eight days instead of one.

Everyone is welcome, and Gontovnick said that the holiday is for everyone, not just the Jewish people.

“It’s really all about freedom. Freedom of all people, not just Jewish people.”

In a press release from Premier David Eby, he said that this year had been a painful time for the Jewish community, reeling from the deadliest attacks on Jewish people since the Holocaust.

“Tonight at sundown, Jewish families in British Columbia and all over the world will celebrate the start of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights,” Eby said.

But for Carr and Finablum, it is two weeks of making latkas, with a recipe that has been going on for 33 years, according to Carr.

“I mean our bagels and lox. Anybody can do that,” she said. “I have my own Latka recipe, and nobody changes it.”

Carr said it is quite the operation and has gone through two crates of eggs, roughly five pounds of onion, and a lot of potatoes.

“We used to peel and shred all of our own,” said Carr.

Carr said she likes to wear her Hanukkah shirt during the holiday, even if it has some Lakta stains.

“I started wearing it 20 years, maybe 25 years ago. It’s my Hanukkah shirt. I wear it every day. It is a little dirty.”

The Jewish Community Centre is hosting ‘Latka-mania’ over Hanukkah and will run for two weeks. (News Staff/Tom Eley)
The Jewish Community Centre is hosting ‘Latka-mania’ over Hanukkah and will run for two weeks. (News Staff/Tom Eley)

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