Hanukkah of the Maccabees and the Israel-Hamas War: A Celebration of Healing at the Washington Hebrew Congregation
Thursday evening marks the start of Hanukkah. The Maccabee myth tells the story of a family of rebels who led a revolt against the anti-Semitic rulers of Greece. After winning against the Greeks and re-entering their temple, the Maccabees lit a make-shift menorah with a singular vial of lamp oil. What was supposed to stay lit for one night, lasted for eight.
The Israel-Hamas war is dominating the festival of lights this season. It came two months after the Israel attacks that killed more than a thousand people. The conflict has caused the deaths of 16,200 Palestinians, according to the Associated Press.
Because of the holiday’s popularity, the Jewish communities in the country are still honoring and acknowledging the meaning of the festival.
We used prayers and readings to recognize the moment. Our liturgy includes a prayer for Israel that has become a part of it. There’s a prayer for healing for all the victims – Israeli and Palestinian alike — all the innocent victims of this conflict,” said Rabbi Lutz. “As we do our prayer for healing, we put up all the names of the hostages, to pray for their healing.”
This Hanukkah, the Washington Hebrew congregation will focus more on peace and healing than in the past.
Bringing a ton of light into the dark time: This year’s Hanukkah celebrations are tempered by Israel’s war with Hamas
One way to facilitate healing is through education, according to Rabbi Fischel. Prior to the attacks, they planned to have a five-part class on Israel centered around judicial reform.
There is physical ties between Israel and WHC. Rabbi Fischel says they’re in constant communication with their sister congregation, Or Hadash, in Haifa. Or Hadash’s rabbi, Na’ama She visited when the war began to check in with the Washington congregants.
“We have started a fund to give relief to the kibbutzim down south that were devastated by these attacks; to raise money for an ambulance in Israel as well as to raise money for families of hostages and we have so far raised $500,000.”
We’re doing Hanukkah with neon this year. We have not only our hannukkiyote but we’re going to have glow sticks and neon lights,” Rabbi Fischel said. “We’re telling people to wear some white as a way to say we are really bringing a ton of light into this really dark time.”
Stand Strong: The Jewish Community Motto of the Second Jewish Festival in Los Angeles During the October 7th Lectionary Synodic Synagogue
The community theme this year is stand strong. It really was chosen as the theme because the community is in transition from one rabbi to another rabbi – with the idea that in this moment of transition we need to stand strong,” said Barry Lutz, the interim rabbi at West Hollywood’s Kol Ami Reform Synagogue. It’s become a very fitting symbol since everything that’s going on in our country and now in Israel.
The discussion with his congregants is familiar, but whether or not the recent rise in anti-Jewish sentiment has been a topic of conversation is a different matter.
“I serve an community that is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transliterated.” There is a heightened concern of anti-Semitism and anti-gay sentiment in the country. “There’s been a dual concern that existed before October 7th.”
Sharing light will allow you to get more of it, while giving part of it away won’t. “All that is involved is eating latkes and eating doughnuts and enjoying each other’s company, but how can we be a source of light?” asked Rabbi Lutz.
“One of the most important things that we can do as a community,” Gellis says, “is to make sure we don’t stop living our lives — that we don’t stop celebrating who we are.”
He understands security concerns when it comes to public Jewish events. But be believes that coming together proudly as Jews is the best way to experience what he calls Jewish joy and to kindle light against darkness.
The Little Army Beats the Big Army: Hanukkah Celebrations inspire Jewish joy despite war and increasing antisemitism
“The little army beat the big army, and it was a miracle,” says Zachary. “We are small but mighty. And no matter what you throw at us, we’re not going away.”
Jq International organize Gelty Pleasures, a queer Jewish group. It’s difficult to think about celebrating Hanukkah this year because of the rise in antisemitism and anti-gay legislation, which is something founder and CEO Asher Gellis knows all too well.
“Well, you know, Jason, I’m really, really looking forward to being able to judge everybody on their latke recipes who thinks they’re better than mine,” says Aunt Shirley. “But it’s cute that they still try.”
The emcee of Gelty Pleasures will be Aunt Shirley, who is one of my drag personas. “Aunt Shirley is a 1950s housewife from Brooklyn who you never knew you wanted but somehow don’t want to get rid of.”
The dinners are part of a week long celebration called Infinite Light. Among them, a big party at the Petersen Automotive Museum on the first night of Hanukkah and a burlesque show next week called Gelty Pleasures — that’s gelt, as in the chocolate coins given out during the holiday.
Chanukkah Celebrations Inspire Jewish Joy Despite War and Increasing Antisemitism: Carina Cuellar’s Menorah
She says they had a big brick fireplace and a wooden mantel. I remember the wax melting on that. It is fun and beautiful to wax everywhere.
She spent a portion of her lunch break decorating. The large menorah was set on the coffee table and unboxed.
“I’m going to put them over the door frame right here,” she says, pointing to the entrance to the dining room. “That was the question, the discussion this morning: Is it possible to light up the room if I put them over the window? What should I look at the most?
Cuellar says that this worry makes her more reluctant this year to decorate in ways that people passing by outside might see, such as putting the lights or the menorah in the window. Still, she’s throwing a Hanukkah party Friday night.
“I feel like it’s more important than ever to celebrate our joy, considering all of the antisemitism that’s happening,” she says. “We just really want to live our life as joyously as possible.”
A Jewish Value of Helpers and Shabbanukkahs in Los Angeles, supported by OneTable and the Los Angeles Young Adult Initiative NuRoots
Cuellar is hosting people she knows well and people she has just met through a program organized by the group OneTable and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ young adult initiative called NuRoots.
The ninth factor is a shamash candles, and the tenth factor is a helpers candle. “That’s the candle you light to light the rest of the menorah. I see our role in the community as shamash.
“A Jewish value that is prominent in Hanukkah is hosting and hospitality,” she says. “So we wanted to empower our community to do that, not only as a participant but to actively do that to host others in their home.”
On Friday night, NuRoots and OneTable will help pay for the food at more than two dozen dinners in Los Angeles. They jokingly refer to these as “Shabbanukkah” meals — a mashup of the words Shabbat (another word for Sabbath, or the Jewish day of rest) and Hanukkah.