US Jews plan smaller Hanukkah celebrations amid virus

However celebrating Hanukkah throughout a pandemic nonetheless poses a problem to some Jewish Individuals, for whom the vacation has risen in prominence partially as a result of its social parts and timing line up with non-Jewish holidays comparable to Christmas.

That has usually offered a purpose to host get-togethers, stated Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America, a plaintiff within the court docket case.

However such giant gatherings are “not a necessary a part of the vacation on any stage any means,” he added. “So to Haredim, to us ultra-Orthodox, it’s not one thing that’s going to cramp our fashion.”

Hanukkah isn’t affected the restrictions on digital gadget utilization that observant Jews heed through the sabbath and holy days, permitting for digital celebrations.

Earlier than he lit the candles of the branched candelabra known as a menorah, he recited blessings, together with one expressing gratitude to God for all times: “This 12 months,” Shafran stated, “we actually need to thank God.”

Rabbi Moshe Hauer, government vp of the Orthodox Union, additionally deliberate to attach with prolonged household way of Zoom, along with internet hosting a small in-person household get-together.

“Household gatherings are going to be restricted, with or with out the Supreme Courtroom determination,” he stated.

The eight-day vacation starting Thursday at sundown, often known as the Jewish Pageant of Lights, honors the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem through the second century B.C. following victory over the Syrians. Celebrated with the nightly lighting of the menorah, it often falls in December however generally in late November.

Hauer linked Hanukkah’s underlying message of the Jewish individuals’s endurance, “the triumph of the spirit in opposition to large odds,” to the present-day coronavirus disaster.

“There’s been an incredible energy of the spirit to proceed to apply and proceed to worship and have a good time, and discover new methods to have a good time,” he stated.

Rabbi Daniel Sherman of Temple Sinai, which describes itself as New Orleans’ oldest Reform congregation, stated it has been tougher to adapt different holidays on the Jewish calendar to the constraints of the pandemic.

“In some methods Hanukkah is a bit of bit simpler, as a result of the principle celebration of Hanukkah is a house celebration versus everybody coming to temple every night time,” Sherman stated. His synagogue is planning a drive-through candle-lighting on Thursday on the Audubon Zoo, in addition to nightly candle-lightings over Zoom.

Nonetheless, Sherman added, “persons are used to having family and friends over for these residence celebrations, and this 12 months the problem is to have that Hanukkah spirit nonetheless, despite the fact that it would simply be your rapid household otherwise you would possibly simply be your self.”

For Esther Reisman, who teaches Bible research and Jewish historical past at Beth Jacob Academy in Brooklyn, Hanukkah gatherings with prolonged household can sometimes embrace dozens of individuals. However this 12 months it might be simply her and her husband, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman of Agudath Israel of Madison, additionally a plaintiff within the Supreme Courtroom case.

“It will likely be a lot, a lot smaller,” she stated, including that many others of their neighborhood have been planning intimate gatherings simply with rapid relations. Reisman’s household was additionally consulting a specialist in infectious illness to reduce any threat, she stated.

Hanukkah is extra of a minor vacation in Israel, although it’s nonetheless a festive event marked communal candle-lighting gatherings, college trip and the consumption of deep-fried, and sometimes elaborately embellished, doughnuts referred to as sufganiyot.

With confirmed coronavirus circumstances shortly rising, the Israeli authorities this week introduced plans for a nighttime curfew to stop giant public gatherings however subsequently backtracked. As an alternative, it has inspired individuals to have a good time at residence with their rapid households.

Within the U.S., the vacation can tackle a Christmas-like high quality in some Jewish communities. In Ohio, Chabad Columbus is planning out of doors occasions designed for households to attend at a protected distance, together with a menorah-lighting way of helicopter carried out a person costumed as a member of the Maccabee household, which performs a central function within the Hanukkah story.

Rabbi Hara Individual, the chief government of the Central Convention of American Rabbis, urged celebrants all over the place to stay “very cognizant about what our residence gatherings appear like” within the pandemic context.

Hanukkah is “about spreading gentle and spreading pleasure,” Individual stated, and “we have to keep that concept of spreading gentle not spreading an infection.”


Schor reported from Washington, D.C., and Henao reported from Jersey Metropolis, New Jersey. Related Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Gary Fields in Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed.


Related Press faith protection receives help from the Lilly Endowment means of the Faith Information Basis. The AP is solely chargeable for this content material.

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