More choices for celebrating Hanukkah will be on the table this year, so some Jewish families will light the menorah while Zooming with grandparents, and others will fete the wintertime holiday at community gatherings.
“Absolutely there’s more range of what people are doing this year than last year,” said Samira Mehta, a professor of women and Jewish studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“We’re in a place where there are communities with high vaccination rates and adults getting their boosters and feeling like more in-person stuff is possible — all these things are in rubrics religious leaders are thinking about.”
The eight-day Hanukkah marks the rededication during second century BCE of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, after Jews revolted against oppressors to defend their religious beliefs and won.
Observers light candles each day, beginning this year on Sunday and ending Dec. 6, to symbolize the miracle of a small jar of consecrated oil — found when the Temple was purified — that burned for eight days instead of the one day of supply.
The key messages of Hanukkah — bringing light into the darkness and fostering unity — will play out in observances in Colorado Springs.
The oil in the ancient legend represents the soul, said Rabbi Boaz Vituk, executive director of the Chabad Jewish Community of Colorado Springs.
Hanukkah unites people at the menorah and reminds them “every person is a lamp lighter,” he said. “Hanukkah is there to give strength and illumination to the soul of every person that gives one minute, an hour, a lifetime to take care of other souls.”
When people come together to mark Hanukkah, also known as The Festival of Lights, they “form a great light and push away any possible darkness,” Vituk said.
In that spirit, the synagogue will host the first annual Chanukah Unity Celebration beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs.
The intent, Vituk said, is to illuminate the city physically and spiritually.
The public is invited to the free event, which will include a menorah lighting ceremony, guests such as the mayor, police and fire chiefs, members of other religious traditions, and food, such as chocolate coins, kosher hot dogs and doughnuts. Entertainment also will be provided.
Hanukkah is not the Jewish equivalent of Christmas and is not as significant as other holidays in the Jewish liturgical year, Mehta said.
But that’s not to say it’s not important to American Jews, “particularly families with little kids, making Judaism feel good and exciting in the face of Christmas,” Mehta said.
In addition to bringing light into darkness, Hanukkah speaks of resiliency and rebuilding, which are common themes in society in these COVID-19 times, said Rabbi Iah Pillsbury, who leads Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs.
“We all get to rebuild our lives and decide what matters to us and make our lives better, and that message is part of the deliciousness of the light and miracles,” she said.
“It’s been another hard year, and it’s inspiring that our ancestors survived really hard times, and we can, too,” Pillsbury said. “We have their wisdom to buoy us up, and we’ll figure it out.”
If it seems like Hanukkah is being celebrated early this year, it is, Pillsbury said.
Nov. 28 is the earliest Hanukkah can fall on the Jewish calendar, which follows both the solar and lunar cycles. Instead of a leap day, there’s an extra month every so often, which varies the start of Hanukkah, Pillsbury said.
In 2013, the first day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving, a rare occurrence. Some years it’s mish-mashed with Christmas, which last happened in 2005 and again will coincide with Christmas in 2024.
This year's local events include:
“Do It Yourself” Menorah Workshop, Sunday, Nov. 28, at 4 p.m. Chabad Jewish Community of Colorado Springs, 6062 Hollow Tree Court. Learn how to build your own menorah using materials donated by Home Depot. Open to all.
Temple Shalom Hanukkah Community Celebration, Sunday, Nov. 28, 4-6 p.m. followed by community candle lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Held outdoors at Temple Shalom, 1523 E. Monument St. Featuring music, hot food and drinks, dreidel game area, theatrical story reading, maybe some dancing. Open to all.
Register online at https://www.templeshalom.com/event/pto-hanukkah-event-tbd.html, or call the office, 719-634-5311.
Temple Beit Torah Hanukkah Celebration and Consecration, Friday, Dec. 3, decorating at 6:45 p.m., service starts at 7 p.m. at Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 601 N. Tejon St., in the social hall. Masked, hybrid services followed by doughnut potluck. Free and open to everyone. Bring menorahs, pillows, dreidels and Chanukah decorations.
Hanukkah Film Festival, a virtual public fundraiser to benefit Temple Beit Torah. Runs each day between Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, pay $36 for one ticket to watch any number of films you choose. Films are for children and adults, and range from short to feature lengths, including animated film, romantic comedy, drama, historical and documentary.
Go to: http://www.hanukkahfilmfestival.com/. Use the promo code TBTCOS to register, and Temple Beit Torah will receive $18 per registration.
The first annual Chanukah Unity Celebration, 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs. Presented by the Chabad Jewish Community of Colorado Springs, the event is free and open to the public. It will include a menorah lighting ceremony, guests such as the mayor, police and fire chiefs, members of other religious traditions, entertainment and food, such as chocolate coins, kosher hot dogs and doughnuts.
21st annual Hanukkah Parade by The Chabad Lubavitch of Colorado Springs and Southern Colorado, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5, tradition driving on giant lighted menorahs through city, starting at the synagogue, 6616a Delmonico Drive. Lasts 1 hour, 10 minutes and includes police escort. For more information call 719-634-2345.
Virtual Hanukkah Concert by Temple Beit Torah, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, on Zoom, $25 for a login. To register, pay online at www.Beit-Torah.org or by check to Temple Beit Torah, 522 E. Madison St. Colorado Springs, 80907. For more information, call 719-573-0841. Include email address to receive Zoom link.
Performances by Dr. Abe Minzer, musical director; Cynthia Lynn Robinson, violinist and 40-year member of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic; Professor William Malone, department chair at Pikes Peak Community College; Dr. Ofer Ben-Amots, chair of the department of music at Colorado College; and other guests. Erin Taylor will lead a family singalong of new and old favorites.