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I don't envy the management of the Empire State Building this year. Especially the guy in charge of the lights - he is going to have his hands full.
The fellow in charge of decorative lights at New York's (currently) tallest building is faced with a scheduling conflict. New York, of course, is a cosmopolitan city, a tourist center that entertains millions of guests each year - many of whom come to the city for the winter holiday season. And, it is also home to the world's second-largest Jewish community.
In order to add a festive trimming to the season, the Empire State has traditionally been lit with colored lights; red and green for Christmas and blue and white for Hanukka. Most years, Hanukka precedes Christmas by at least a week, if not more, so there's no problem; in early December, the tower is lit in blue and white decorative lights, while later on in the month, the theme changes to red and green.
That's most years; this year, though, Hanukka and Christmas are actually on the same day, with the first Hanukka candle lit on Sunday night!
Will the Empire State continue its long time tradition (actually, it has lapsed in the past as well) and help New York's Jews celebrate Hanukka - or will it be swept up in the inexorable worldwide wave of "season's greetings?" If you want to find out for yourself, log on to http://www.mergatroyd.org/cam/esbcam.asp on Sunday night, New York time, for a close up view of the building.
Christmas is fine for the Christians, as the old saying goes, but we Jews have plenty to celebrate, too. I don't just mean Hanukka, either - there's plenty to take our minds off the media and social celebration of Christmas for Jews who aren't inclined to take part in the seasonal festivities, right here on the Jewish Web.
Yes, the Jewish community is alive and well all over the world, and it's got something for everyone. You can explore discussions of Jewish law, get involved in political discussions, buy and sell stuff, exchange recipes, etc. It's just like your own home community, but with a difference - when you've had enough of the people you're "virtually" living with, you can just move on to the next community!
And where are these communities to be found? Well, they're all over the place, but a good place to start exploring them is in one of the tens of thousands of Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com). The term "Jewish," for example, returns 3,920 hits, "Jewish community" 762, "Israel Jewish" 642, etc. The more specific your inquiry, of course, the more exact your target will be; there are many groups that contain the word "Jewish" or "Israel" in their descriptions that you're probably not going to be interested in.
To join these groups and read or post messages, you basically have to be a Yahoo member (you join for free at the Yahoo home page, and get a huge e-mail account to boot!) Almost every English speaking community in Israel has their own list, with the biggest and most famous being Janglo (http://www.janglo.net), where you can buy or sell almost everything in existence, if it's to be found in the Jerusalem area. Janglo is such a high traffic list it even has its own Internet browser toolbar, which will list the newest messages as they come in. And the best part of Yahoo groups is that if you don't find what you're looking for, you can create your own group in about five minutes!
If you want a more organized communal experience, try Kehillaton (http://www.kehillaton.com). Picture Kehillaton as a main street in a Jewish neighborhood anywhere in the world; it's got services, merchandise, an events calendar, Jewish religious institutions - and a jobs database as well. Sort of a "one stop shop" of communal activities and services, Kehillaton connects buyers and sellers, employers and employees, service providers and service users - all for free.
If Kehillaton is a reflection of the modern Jewish community, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv is a reflection of historical Jewish communities. The museum has hundreds of exhibits reflecting Jewish life throughout history around the world, and it also has a database of Jewish family names, where you can input a name and learn about the historical context of the family. The museum now offers the service on-line for people who can't get to the museum; at http://www.bh.org.il/Names/index.aspx, you can request data on three names for NIS 25. The Museum's site also has, http://www.bh.org.il/Communities/Links/index.aspx, an extensive list of links to Jewish institutions, restaurants, services and cemeteries - you name it, it's there. With all these links to explore, you won't have time to worry about how the Empire State Building is lit up; you'll have enough Jewish communal links to last until summer!
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