This year’s Hanukkah celebrations begin at sundown Dec. 7. The eight-day Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the second century B.C. While the “Festival of Lights” takes on a jubilant tone, this year’s celebration is tinged with sadness from Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the Israel Defense Forces’ responding military offensives.
Evansville’s Jewish community is experiencing what Rabbi Gary Mazo of Temple Adath B’nai Israel calls “a whole range of emotion.”
“There’s a lot of concern for those who are still being held hostage,” he says. “There is a sense of fear that Israel is fighting for its survival and existence.”
For some Evansville residents, the horror has hit close to home as their relatives were taken hostage by Hamas during the October attack. While some of those loved ones have returned home, others still are unaccounted for.
“Hanukkah is a celebration of light. This is certainly a time where we need light in our lives,” Mazo adds.
Mazo describes Hanukkah as a home-based holiday. Temple Adath B’nai Israel will host candle lightings the first two days, followed by a Hanukkah party on Sunday. Otherwise, most celebrations will take place at home.
Although the temple’s Hanukkah services typically are open to the public, this year’s services are limited to temple members and pre-approved visitors. Officials also added police presence outside the temple as a precaution.
New this year are Facebook Live streams in which people can light their candles together. One person in the community will light their candle for everyone to see, and people watching can light their candles simultaneously. The temple also will light candles each evening.
“We’ve been trying to bring light back into the world,” Mazo says.
Community events celebrating the Festival of Lights include a Hanukkah-to-Go kit of activities and games available at Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library’s Oaklyn and West branches. Shalom Yeshua Ministries is hosting a Hanukkah party and potluck dinner at 5 p.m. Dec. 9.