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Chabad Mixes Latkes, Ice Skates

Fairfax group sponsors event to celebrate Jewish holiday.

It's easy for non-Christians to feel like outsiders during the Christmas season. Neighborhood homes and stores are decorated with symbols of a different religion's holiday, and Christmas music seems inescapable.

That's why the Chabad of Northern Virginia tries to have Chanukah-themed events such as Chanukah on Ice at the Fairfax Ice Arena. "There are so many things out there that are not necessarily Jewish," said Rabbi Leibel Fajnland of the Fairfax Chabad.

Fajnland explained that nothing was wrong with people celebrating their religion openly, he and Chabad just want to provide opportunities for Jews to do so, as well.

"It's nice to go someplace where it's for Jews," said Joel Taubman, 14, of Annandale. "Sometimes, it's nice to go to a public place and see it decorated for Chanukah."

Taubman, a student at Chabad's Midrasha, or Hebrew high school, program, was one of more than 120 people who came to the event on Dec. 12.

The Chabad provided latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganyot (jelly doughnuts), two foods traditionally eaten during Chanukah, and played Jewish music throughout the rink.

Participants also lit six bulbs on the electric menorah to commemorate the sixth day of the eight-day holiday.

But Chanukah on Ice was about more than just celebrating the holiday. As the name implies, it was a chance to have some fun ice skating.

Dozens of people took to the ice, some zipping around the rink while others clutched at the sides and pulled themselves along. "I'm very bad at ice skating, but I wanted to practice," said Taubman.

All the skaters, even those who spent as much time on their backs as on their feet, seemed to enjoy themselves. "I definitely like ice skating," said Edan Grossman, 12, of Fairfax, one of the more skilled skaters. "I think it's fun to come and hang out with friends."