Hanukkah is a minor holiday in Judaism, but it may resonate with believers more this year in light of the tragic massacre where 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Hanukkah is a festival of lights that lasts for eight nights and days beginning Dec. 2 and ending Dec. 10. Candles are attached to a menorah and are lit each night. On the eighth night, all of the candles are lit.
The holiday is meant to celebrate the second century B.C. Jewish rebellion against the Greeks, who tried to impose their Hellenistic way of life on them. But this year, it may be a time for Jewish people to reassert their faith after the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh was attacked by a gunman allegedly motivated by anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Charles Rubovits of the Joliet Jewish Congregation said the incident in Pennsylvania “put a huge dent in our observance system.” He said it made the local synagogue “really aware of crackpots and crazy people in the streets, and it needs to be addressed, and our congregation is going to address it.”
“Hanukkah is just another time when we come together and say, ‘Look, this is who we are, and this is why we are, and we’re not going to change it,’ ” Rubovits said.
On Oct. 27, Robert Bowers is said to have gone to a worship service at the Tree of Life Congregation and killed 11 people with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, authorities said. Bowers allegedly had expressed hatred of Jewish people during the shooting and told the police, “Jews need to die.”
Seven people, including Bowers, suffered nonfatal injuries.
The incident highlighted growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the U.S. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that the organization has reported historic increases in both anti-Semitic incidents and online harassment.
“As we mourn those lost and search for answers, ADL will remain steadfast in its mission to fight anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it may occur,” Greenblatt said.
In a 2017 report, the Anti-Defamation League identified 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated throughout the U.S., a 57 percent increase over 2016 and also the first time since 2010 that an incident occurred in every state.
The incidents included harassment, vandalism and assault.
Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday, but its celebration has grown over the years because of its proximity to Christmas. Rubovits stressed Hanukkah is not equivalent to Christmas whatsoever.