Want more great Hanukkah ideas? Find articles, crafts, and recipes in our Hanukkah Guide.
From pronunciation to scheduling, questions and answers about the Festival of Lights.
How do you pronounce Hanukkah?
Is there a correct way to spell Hanukkah?
Why does Hanukkah last eight days?
What is Hanukkah about?
Is it OK to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas?
Why does Hanukkah fall on a different date each year?
Is the candelabra lit on Hanukkah called a menorah or a hanukkiah?
Why do Jews play dreidel on Hanukkah?
Do Jews traditionally exchange gifts on all eight nights of Hanukkah?
By Naomi Levy for Hadassah Magazine
Want more great Hanukkah ideas? Find articles, crafts, and recipes in Jvillage's Hanukkah Guide.
What would Hanukkah be without the burning candles reminding us of God’s miracles in the time of the Maccabees and in our own days? But the candles we kindle on the holiday—which begins the evening of December 12—can also teach us about the miracle shining within each of us. As Proverbs 20:27 reminds us: “God’s candle is the human soul.” We are carrying God’s light within us. It burns like a pilot light, always available to help us and guide us. It’s our responsibility to honor and tend that light, to keep sharing it and spreading it.
Martin Kramer for Mosaic
The usual answer is Truman—but it could just as easily be Stalin. In fact, thanks to Zionist diplomacy, it was both; and therein lies a lesson for the Jewish state today.
November 29 marks the 70th anniversary of UN General Assembly resolution 181, recommending the partition of Mandate Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states. On that day in 1947, millions of listeners sat glued to their radio sets to follow the voting. The outcome set off spontaneous celebrations among Zionists everywhere, for it constituted the first formal international endorsement of a Jewish state.
To celebrate the anniversary, Israel’s embassy to the United Nations is restoring the hall in Flushing Meadows, New York—today the main gallery of the Queens Museum, then the meeting place of the General Assembly—to its appearance in 1947. The announced plan is to reenact the vote, with the current ambassadors of member states that voted “yes” recasting their ballots.
BY RACHAEL GELFMAN SCHULTZ for myjewishlearning.com
The proud and turbulent history of Israel's experiment in communal living.
The kibbutz — a collectively owned and run community — holds a storied place in Israeli culture, and Jews (and non-Jews) from around the world, including 2016 Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, have volunteered on them. Launched in 1909, with the founding of Degania, Israel’s first kibbutz, this unique movement has changed dramatically over its more-than-100-year history.
Degania, in northern Israel, was founded by a group of young Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They dreamed of working the land and creating a new kind of community, and a new kind of Jew — stronger, more giving, and more rooted in the land.
Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.
The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive. Moderate mysticism is intellectual in nature. It is an attempt to understand God and God’s world, and ultimately affect and change the divine realm. This type of mysticism incorporates many aspects of traditional Judaism, including Torah study and the performance of the commandments, infusing these activities with mystical significance. Intensive mysticism, on the other hand, is experiential in nature. Intensive mystics use nontraditional religious activities, including chanting and meditation, in an attempt to commune with God.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller for aish.com
For centuries Jews have been vital in the production and marketing of beer.
Here are 8 surprising facts about Jews and this history of this popular drink.
Beer-making dates to ancient times. Egyptian tombs depict pictures of beer brewing; Hammurabi’s Code, from 18th century BCE Mesopotamia, mentions beer; the ancient Greeks learned how to brew beer from Egyptians and brought this knowledge to Europe.
Ancient Israel, in contrast, favored wine over beer. But after the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, Jews were exiled to nearby Babylonia and adopted the Babylonian taste for beer. The Talmud records four different types of beer, brewed from barley, dates, figs and beer (Pesachim 107a). The modern usage of hops, a plant related to mulberries, in beer is also mentioned in the Talmud, which notes hops’ medicinal properties of being a preservative and antiseptic (Avodah Zarah 31b).
By Dara Horn for Tablet Magazine
As demonstrated by the ‘Jewish Don Quixote,’ by S.Y. Abramovitsh, aka Mendele the Book Peddler
Those who know little about Yiddish often associate it with humor. But most Yiddish literature isn’t particularly funny except in a horrible, un-American way: comically-told plots in which people suffer terribly or die horrible deaths. Even the relentlessly upbeat Sholem Aleichem, whose Tevye stories inspired the relentlessly upbeat Fiddler on the Roof, fits this pattern: In the original, Golde and Motl both drop dead and Shprintze drowns herself, none of which made it to Broadway. Call it anti-redemptive comedy, the inverse of the Western-Christian comic storyline where winsome protagonists find love and grace. Their Yiddish counterparts instead find doom and more doom.
By Marjorie Ingall for Tablet Magazine
An effort is underway to save old buildings crumbling into dust
A lot of us have visited the beautiful museum at Ellis Island and pondered our collective and family history. Fewer, however, know that there is an abandoned hospital complex on the island, empty since 1954—and crumbling. If you’re relatively fit, possess a pair of closed-toe shoes, and are willing to sign a waiver saying you won’t sue anyone if some debris falls on your head, you can see it.
A nonprofit called Save Ellis Island, working with the National Park Service to preserve the old buildings, raises funds in part through eerie hard-hat tours of the hospital. I went on a tour in the company of the New York Adventure Club, which gives its participants access to additional areas of the complex.
BY BONNIE MILLER RUBIN for Kveller
It was a dream—and a challenge. Could my two siblings and I–now with full calendars and spread across the country–relive the road trips of our youth that exist only in sepia-toned photos?
After talking about it for years, we finally made it happen in summer 2016: A ten day itinerary, including San Francisco, Carmel and Yosemite National Park. But while we were excited, we also needed to acknowledge that a lot had changed since we last shared the back seat of a Ford station wagon, blissfully content with our Etch-a-Sketch, Archie comic books and a hefty bag of Oreos.
For starters, two of us had spouses, whose interests and physical abilities had to be considered–along with their tolerance for our endless singing of Broadway show tunes. (After our 10th rendition of “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” my husband might be reaching for a weapon of his own).
By Marc Blesoff for Jewish Sacred Aging
The United States has the largest prison population in the world.
According to Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar, “…while sentencing options as diverse as financial penalties, atonement offerings, corporal punishment, capital punishment and even death directly by the hand of G-d are found in the Torah, the punishment of “incarceration” as we know it is nowhere to be found in traditional Torah-based Jewish law.”
Three years ago I ended my career as a criminal defense attorney. Since then, I have been facilitating both Wise Aging Workshops (from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality) and Conscious Aging Workshops (from the Institute Of Noetic Sciences, IONS). These programs are extremely compatible with one another and both highlight the opportunities to live well all the way through our last third of life.
BY DAVID SAIGER for myjewishlearning.com
The Lithuania-born visionary turned an ancient language into a spoken one.
When Eliezer Ben-Yehuda arrived in Palestine in 1881, Hebrew had not been the spoken language of the Jewish people since the time of the Bible. Yet, thanks to Ben-Yehuda, by 1922 enough Jewish pioneers were speaking Hebrew that the British Mandate authorities recognized it as the official language of Jews in Palestine.
Ben-Yehuda conceived of Jewish nationalism as both the return to the historical homeland in the Land of Israel, as well as the revival of the Hebrew language. To accomplish the latter, Ben-Yehuda needed to inspire a near impossible feat: transform Hebrew, which for centuries had been used only in study, into a modern spoken language.
By Rabbi Meir Soloveichik for Mosaic
If Judaism’s idea of art is one that can truly represent our frail, fallible humanity, then Rembrandt, who captured faces “without any attempt to beautify them,” is the artist for Jews.
Of all places on earth, this one was surely the least likely to be the favored haunt of a Lithuanian rabbi. Even more surprising than the place itself was how the rabbi reacted to what he found there.
The time was World War I. The place was the National Gallery in London, repository of one of the most extraordinary collections of art on earth. The rabbi was Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), a stellar product of the great Volozhin yeshiva in what is now Belarus and a genius of talmudic learning.
The war had left Rabbi Kook, at that point the chief rabbi of Jaffa in Palestine, stranded in England. Though most of his time was spent immersed in study, he sought inspiration among the works in the National Gallery. And in those halls, there was one painter in particular to whom he gravitated. We know about this thanks to a report by a Jewish sculptor in Jerusalem named Avram Melnikoff, who in later years would consult the rabbi on a matter of halakhah. In the course of their conversation, Rabbi Kook divulged the name of his favorite artist: Rembrandt van Rijn.
MEIR Y. SOLOVEICHIK for Commentary
Laughter,” writes the the essayist Jim Holt in his book Stop Me If You’ve Heard This, “is our characteristic response to the aesthetic category of the humorous, the comical, or the funny. What is it about the humorous situation that evokes this response? Why should a certain kind of cerebral activity issue in such a peculiar behavioral reflex?”
This is not only a question that is raised every time you watch the Marx Brothers; it is also, you will be surprised to hear, at the very heart of Judaism. Laughter is a central theme on one of Judaism’s most serious days, a fact that makes it clear that for Jews, laughter is no laughing matter.
On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Awe that begins each new year, we read the passage in the Torah about the miraculous birth of a son to the elderly Sarah, then 90 years of age. This son’s Hebrew name, Yitzchak, means “he will laugh.” This, the Bible informs us, is linked to the laughter that his birth to Sarah provoked: “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age . . . . And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”
By Michel Gurfinkiel for Mosaic
Translated into English for the first time, The Wandering Jew Has Arrived captures the breadth of Jewish life from London to Eastern Europe to Palestine just before it all changed.
If you’ve always longed to read a book capturing that very special moment in history when the European Diaspora still was the Jewish people, even as the state of Israel was looming on the far horizon—a book explaining, from within, that moment of incipient transition into two Jewish identities—it has existed since 1930. The problem is that it was written in French, and by a Gentile at that, and for decades nobody bothered introducing it to the English-speaking public.
But now the situation has been rectified. Albert Londres’ masterpiece, The Wandering Jew Has Arrived, has recently been published in a superb translation by Helga Abraham, an Egyptian-born graduate of Edinburgh University who now lives in Jerusalem. In her foreword, Abraham goes so far as to compare Londres with “such great documentarians as Mark Twain and George Orwell.” I couldn’t agree more.
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magazine
The Tri-Faith Initiative brings together a synagogue, a church, and a mosque, with a promise to build bridges between them
A new kind of “neighborhood” is nearing completion in West Omaha, Nebraska—a place where Jews, Muslims, and Christians will share spaces, food, ideas, joy, and pain.
Over 10 years ago, a group of Omaha’s religious and lay leaders hatched an idea: Build three, brand-new houses of worship—a temple, a mosque, and a church—located close together on the same plot of land; ensure that the design scheme feels borderless, flowing, and inviting of interaction; encourage communication between communities—promoting, among other things, cross-religious education and, well, understanding; put into place the right leaders to foster these activities; have plentiful parking; coexist; shock the world.
From ASI (American Sephardi Federation)
"If it is our fate to be the last flicker of the Jewish candle in Kolkata, then so be it."
Everyone agrees that Kolkata is one of India's most beautiful cities. But not many know that a majority of the landmarks in the city were built not by the British, but by members of the Jewish community. Once a community several thousands strong, they are now down to just over 20 members.
Despite their diminished numbers, the Jews of Kolkata still own three Synagogues, three schools and a cemetary in Narkedanga. Members of the community are now reaching out to Jewish communities in Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States, to see if they would help to manage Jewish affairs in the city. Members of the community are resigned to the fact that they may be the last generation of Jews in Kolkata. The way they see it, it's the city's loss.