Jewish orgs spread the light of Hanukkah amid COVID-19 gloom

Jewish communities around the world are adapting their Hanukkah celebrations due to the ongoing pandemic.

Snow falls on a Hanukkah Menorah made of ice in Tomsk, Russia on Dec. 8, 2020. (photo credit: LEVY KAMINETSKY/JTA)
Snow falls on a Hanukkah Menorah made of ice in Tomsk, Russia on Dec. 8, 2020.
(photo credit: LEVY KAMINETSKY/JTA)
Hanukkah is now in full swing, and Jewish organizations around the world and in Israel are doing their utmost to expel the gloom and despondency caused by the COVID-19 crisis with a little holiday light.
As ever, Chabad is one of the most active groups seeking to illuminate these subdued times. It is staging a series of activities to spread some Hanukkah happiness, as well as lighting some 15,000 large public menorahs around the world, deploying more than 6,500 “menorah-topped cars” and distributing over 700,000 menorah kits and 2.5 million holiday guides in 17 languages.
In Moscow, Chabad shluchim (emissaries) have distributed thousands of “Hanukkah at home” packages, including menorahs, candles, treats and dreidels. In Bangkok, Thailand, a “Hanukkah on Ice” event featuring the lighting of an ice menorah will be staged on the eight night.
In London, a virtual “Share the Light” competition will be staged later this week. Competitors will submit designs for unique menorahs, while live musical performances, a magic show and a hanukkiah-lighting ceremony will be broadcast.
Chabad is also holding a “Zoom Hanukkah party” to unite Jewish troops in the US Army who are on duty and deployed “from the deserts of Afghanistan to icy outposts near the North Pole to aircraft carriers in the middle of no one can say where.”
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a giant public menorah was raised and used for the first time ever in that country.
“The menorah is an age-old symbol of religious tolerance and a beacon of hope for all of humanity,” Rabbi Levi Duchman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the UAE, told Chabad News. “There is no more appropriate sign of the respect the Jewish community of the UAE has received here, as well as this country’s spirit of coexistence, than the menorah, so this is exciting for all of us here.”
The American Joint Distribution Committee is also active in spreading Hanukkah cheer. It is holding a candle-lighting video each night of the holiday with different Jewish communities from around the world, including participants from Cuba, Hungary, India, Israel, Morocco, Russia and Ukraine.
In Odessa, Ukraine, participants in JDC’s Active Jewish Teens program will deliver holiday sets – including candles, menorahs and treats – to hundreds of elderly and local families.
In Minsk, Belarus, a local artist will conduct a Zoom class for seniors cared for by the JDC Hesed social welfare center to paint Hanukkah-themed postcards.
In Poland, the flagship Warsaw JCC will hold a series of culinary workshops on how to make doughnuts and latkes.
In Bucharest, Romania; and Sofia, Bulgaria, Jewish community volunteers will prepare and deliver holiday packages containing holiday fare and candle-lighting kits to children and senior citizens.
The JDC also has an operation in Mumbai, India, where it will host its 24th annual Khai Fest, a Hanukkah program being offered online this year in which hundreds of participants will be treated to Hanukkah traditions, candle-lightings and performances by local community members.
“In this year of terrible loss, we need to seize Hanukkah’s message of spreading light and hope amidst the darkness,” JDC president Mark Sisisky and JDC interim CEO Darrell Friedman said in a press release. “JDC proudly does this by aiding Jews, Jewish communities and Israelis hard-hit by the pandemic and by keeping Jewish life thriving on new virtual platforms.”
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Secure Community Network (SCN) will host an online, live-streamed performance by Matisyahu to bring attention to the need for Jewish communities worldwide to be able to exist and thrive safely and securely.
“The work of our federations and communities is the ner tamid – the eternal light – in the sacred task of helping the most vulnerable among us: to feed the hungry and lift up the downtrodden, to build and sustain strong communities where these values are our guiding light, to increase the joy and love of our tradition, and to make every person count,” JFNA chairman Mark Wilf said in a press release.
“We are family – mishpacha – caring for each other here, in Israel and across the world,” he said. “It takes an act of kindness to dispel despair. That is why we are thrilled to partner with Matisyahu for this festival of light.”