Each evening this week, you'll be able to find Congregation Aitz Chaim gather outside at the Great Falls Civic Center celebrating Hanukkah. They say they are the only organized Jewish community in north central Montana.
Treasurer Aaron Weissman says the congregation dates back to around 1910. He's lived in Great Falls his whole life and says it has been a very tight knit community over the years.
"Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. When I was a kid, we had a large Jewish community in town, and that was kind of during the Vietnam War. And there was more military members who might have been Jewish that were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base. We have a very small community here in Great Falls. We're very tight knit that we really love our traditions and love getting together."
Not only do they celebrate Hanukkah each year, but they also remember Diane Kaplan, who they say was a driving force in the community. The menorah they use has been in use since after Kaplan's death in 2009, and her memory and work live on to this day.
"Diane Kaplan, who the menorah is named for, was a very big part of our community with her son, Kai," board member Stephen Boyd said. "She was one of those people that was always around, always bustling around, doing everything for the community. It's a great holiday of giving, people coming and giving their time to celebrate. It's traditional and it's special for our community to get together."
The last day of Hanukkah is December 26th. Each evening leading up to the 26th, as well as the evening of the 26th, there will be a candle lighting in front of the Civic Center at 5:30 p.m.
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