Ushering in the festival of lights around the world

Chabad sponsors over 15,000 events in more than 75 countries; thousands of Bnei Menashe celebrate Hanukka in northeastern India.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
December 2, 2010 06:08
1 minute read.
Chabad Hanukka Menora

chabad menora 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Jewish communities around the world held ceremonies on the first night of the eight-day long festival of lights, Hanukka.

In Moscow about 1,000 people braved polar temperatures as cold as -28 degrees Celsius to take part in a menora lighting at the Kremlin’s Manege Square.

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The ceremony was just one of more than 15,000 events in more than 75 countries around the world that Chabad, the Jewish hassidic movement, is organizing or sponsoring throughout the holiday.

Meanwhile, about 8,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India, who believe they are descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes, ushered in the first night of Hanukka carrying torches through the rural countryside.

“For most of their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe did not observe Hanukka nor were they aware of its existence until the modern era,” said Michael Freund, chairman and founder of Shavei Israel, which provides aid to the community. “The Bnei Menashe still in India are anxiously awaiting a decision by Israel’s government to allow them to come home to the Jewish state, and we pray that their dream will soon be fulfilled.”

Back in Europe, a Hanukka candle-lighting ceremony in Sofia doubled as a dedication of a new Jewish preschool – Gan Balagan.

Shlomo, a 33-year-old father whose two children are enrolled at the school lit a candle together with his family at the event. The daycare center, jointly funded and operated by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Shalom, Bulgarian Jewry’s social and cultural organization, will provide Jewish families with a place to send their children aged 3 to 5.



“As JDC has historically been at the center of efforts to rekindle the flames of Jewish life in Europe and throughout the world, it’s our great pleasure this Hanukka to celebrate with the Bulgarian Jewish community its new, landmark Jewish educational institution,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager.

Not too far away, in Budapest, about 30 theatres, restaurants and cafes are taking part in another project organized by JDC called Hanukka Cafe. For the duration of the holiday the venues partaking in the program will hold cultural events and social gatherings marking the Jewish holiday.

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