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Merrick center's bid to reclaim world record for menorah lighting comes up short

(L-R) Matthew Bilitzki, Carrie Bilitzi, and Jacob Bilitzki,

(L-R) Matthew Bilitzki, Carrie Bilitzi, and Jacob Bilitzki, all of Bellmore, with Joseph Litman, 6, of Bellmore, and Nat Litman, of Merrick, participate in an attempt at breaking a world record of most lit menorahs during a Hannukah event at the Merrick Jewish Centre, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

They set a world record, lost it to a competitor, then tried to reclaim it Thursday night: the most menorahs lit at one time in one place.

The Merrick Jewish Centre entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011 by lighting 782 menorahs. In 2012, that was eclipsed by the Jewish Center of Princeton in New Jersey, which lit 834.

The Merrick center was aiming high Thursday evening -- a thousand simultaneously lit menorahs -- but after an official tally, the center came up short at fewer than 700, according to Rabbi Charles Klein.

"There were a lot of people, but we didn't have enough people with menorahs," he said.

Admission to the event was one menorah and four candles per person. Thursday night was the third night of Hanukkah, requiring three lit candles on the menorah and a fourth, called the Shamash, used to light the others.

Hanukkah commemorates events in 164 Before the Common Era when Maccabean rebels fought for and won religious freedom, retaking control of the sacred Temple of Jerusalem from Syrian Greek soldiers.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and other "judges" were on hand to oversee the event, along with an outside auditor tasked with counting the menorahs, Klein said.

The synagogue was prepared to supply Guinness with proof in the form of photographs and videos.

That turned out not to be necessary, but Klein wasn't too disappointed.

"We set a world record for Hanukkah spirit," he said.

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