Hanukkah worldwide, lifeline to a shared Jewish heritage
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Photo Essay

Hanukkah worldwide, lifeline to a shared Jewish heritage

A celebration of the festival of lights in photographs, some from unexpected places

Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gathering in Churachandpur, in the Indian state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah, Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gathering in Churachandpur, in the Indian state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah, Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)

JTA — 2015 may be the year of the anti-Hanukkah think piece.

“It has become a blue and white kaleidoscope of vague Jewishness, one that tacitly enables Christmas-style material excess,” writes Emma Green in the Atlantic.

“The Festival of Lights, pleasant as it is, is a minor celebration of a band of violent, nut-job religious fanatics that was elevated to prominence because of its time of year,” Sarah Seltzer writes in Flavorwire.

But while the “value” of Hanukkah is analyzed and dissected in the US, for many across the globe, the holiday is a lifeline to a shared Jewish heritage that is not particularly present in their countries’ everyday cultures.

Michael Freund, the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, a nonprofit that works to reconnect ancient communities around the world with their Jewish heritage, described this in talking about the 1,000 or so strong Jewish community of Kaifeng, China.

“After centuries of assimilation, a growing number of Kaifeng’s Jews have begun seeking to return to their roots and embrace their Jewish identity,” Freund said in a press release. “The Chinese Jews take their inspiration from the Maccabees.”

Below are photos of Hanukkah celebrations from across the world — some from unexpected places.

Churachandpur, India

Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah in Churachandpur on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah in Churachandpur on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)

Kaifeng, China

A few dozen of the 1,000 or so Jews in Kaifeng, in eastern China, gathered to celebrate on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 6, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
A few dozen of the 1,000 or so Jews in Kaifeng, in eastern China, gathered to celebrate on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 6, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Some members of the Jewish community in Kaifeng on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 6, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
Some members of the Jewish community in Kaifeng on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 6, 2015. (Shavei Israel)

Berlin, Germany

BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 06: Children light torches at the ceremony of the Hanukkah menorah lighting at a public Menorah ceremony near the Brandenburg Gate on December 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The annual events are part of a worldwide Hanukkah campaign set into motion by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Children light torches at the ceremony of the Hanukkah menorah lighting at a public Menorah in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

San Salvador, El Salvador

A family celebrating Hanukkah this week in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Shavei Israel)
A family celebrating Hanukkah this week in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Shavei Israel)

Belmonte, Portugal

A Portuguese family celebrating the holiday earlier this week in Belmonte, home to the country’s remaining population of Marrano Jews. (Shavei Israel)
A Portuguese family celebrating the holiday earlier this week in Belmonte, home to the country’s remaining population of Marrano Jews. (Shavei Israel)

Krakow, Poland

Lighting menorahs earlier this week in Krakow, Poland. (Shavei Israel)
Lighting menorahs earlier this week in Krakow, Poland. (Shavei Israel)
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