JTA — Hanukkah may be considered a “minor holiday,” as rabbis will say, but its resonance and unique traditions offer a great window into Jewish communities around the world.
We’ve rounded up eight images, one for each candle of the menorah, that give a snapshot into how Jews — and, in a couple of instances, how a few notable non-Jews — are celebrating the Festival of Lights this year, from Chile to Ukraine to Taiwan.
Most of the Jews of Kharkiv, formerly one of Ukraine’s hubs of Jewish life, are believed to have left since the start of the Russian war in February.
But on Sunday, residents of the city in northeastern Ukraine found some respite on Sunday night at the Kharkiv Choral Synagogue, where, in an event led by a local chapter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, participants made wax candles, wrapped tefillin and ate latkes with apple sauce.
Rabbi Moishe Moskovych lights the first Hanukkah candle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, December 18, 2022. (Vyacheslav Madiyevskyi / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images via JTA)
Denver, Colorado, United States
The Denver chapter of NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s youth group, unveiled a Lego menorah on Sunday that was built by over 425 teens and constructed from 25,000 Lego bricks. Standing at more than 24 and a half feet (seven and a half meters) tall, the structure will be taken apart after Hanukkah and the bricks will be donated to children in foster care in the United States and in Israel.
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Denver chapter of NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s youth group, unveiled a Lego menorah light a Hanukkah menorah built from LEGO bricks, December 18, 2022. (Image courtesy of Aish of the Rockies, via JTA)
Denver NCSY’s leader, Rabbi Yonatan Nuszen, claims it is the largest Lego menorah in the world. Another Lego menorah, though, claims it deserves the title of the largest in the world — this one in Israel.
Tel Aviv, Israel
North Miami Beach-based artist Yitzchok Kasowitz claims that his Lego menorah at the Lego Store in Dizengoff Center, built with around 130,000 pieces, is the largest of its kind. As reported last week by The Times of Israel, it took a group of “Lego experts” just two marathon days to put it together.
Chile’s far-left president Gabriel Boric has a complicated relationship with most of his country’s Jewish community, and he sparked a minor diplomatic crisis with Israel in September when he rebuffed the credentials of an Israeli envoy.
But on the Friday before Hanukkah, he attended his first official candle-lighting ceremony as president, in what has become a tradition at the La Moneda presidential palace for the last 14 years.
Speaking on Boric’s behalf, Chile’s Secretary General Ana Lya Uriarte said: “This celebration reassures the right that everyone has to practice their faith anywhere, anytime. Lighting these candles means illuminating us during easy and hard times.”
Helena, Montana, United States
For the first time since 1934, the Jewish community of Helena celebrated Hanukkah on Sunday at Temple Emanu-El, the US state’s first synagogue, after a months-long effort to buy back the building from the Catholic Diocese. The interfaith event was attended by nearly 150 guests, who enjoyed a (much smaller) menorah lighting, latkes, a photo booth, arts and crafts, and dreidel playing. It was the first time in nearly 90 years that Hanukkah lights shone from this building.
For the first time in nearly 90 years, Hanukkah lights shine from Temple Emanu-El in Helena, Montana, December 18, 2022. (Courtesy of Montana Jewish Project via JTA)
Mumbai’s Jewish community, led by the Chabad of Mumbai, lit a large menorah this week at the Gateway of India, an early 20th-century monument in the shape of an archway. After the candles were lit, guests were treated to a Hanukkah performance from students at the local Jewish school, featuring dancing and plastic swords. About 5,000 Jews live in Mumbai today.
Mumbai’s Jewish community, led by the Chabad of Mumbai, light a large menorah at the Gateway of India, Mumbai, December 2022. (Gabe Miner via JTA)
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
On Monday, public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremonies took place in Brazil’s two most populous cities, where hundreds of people gathered to watch and the ceremonies were televised. Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro posted a photo of a menorah and a bible in front of Brazilian and Israeli flags on her Instagram account, which received more than 420,000 likes. Her caption included the blessing for the Hanukkah candles in Hebrew.
A menorah lit by Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro to mark the Hanukkah festival, Sau Paulo, December 19, 2022. (Michelle Bolsonaro/Instagram via JTA)
In the weeks preceding Hanukkah, members of the Taiwan Jewish Community in Taipei head to the Yingge district — an area famous for its production of ceramics — to shape and fire their own menorahs in what has become an annual tradition. The menorahs were then used to bring in the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday.
Members of the Taiwan Jewish Community hard at work making menorahs ahead of the Hanukkah festival that began December 18, 2022. (Courtesy of Benjamin Schwall via JTA)
Jordyn Haime contributed to this article.
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