Hanukkah 2023 : A Time to Big Celebrate, Reflect, and Stand Proud

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The Chicago region is celebrating Hanukkah on Thursday, the first night of the 2023 holiday.

At dusk, hundreds of people are anticipated to assemble at Chabad of Northbrook to formally mark the beginning of the holiday.

Rabbis have stated that this year’s festival of light is particularly significant as Jews prepare to celebrate it.

What is the holiday of Hanukkah?

It’s an eight-day Jewish “festival of lights,” according to Chabad.org, marked by special prayers, fried food, and the lighting of menorahs.

The name of the festival, Hanukkah, comes from the Hebrew word for “dedication.” It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple that took place more than 2,000 years ago following the Jewish victory over the Greek occupying forces.

Hanukka Mesage

“The message of Hanukkah is that we have to shine instead of hiding because there is a lot of negativity and darkness in the world,” stated Rabbi Meir Moscowitz, regional director of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois.

With a message of optimism, Rabbi Moscowitz is preparing his congregation.

Individuals are inquiring, ‘How am I able to help? “How can I proudly accept my identity and my heritage?” questioned the man.

Rabbi Moscowitz exhorts his congregation to embrace their Jewish heritage while the Israel-Hamas conflict rages on in the Middle East, with an increasing death toll and little assurance about when peace will reign.

“We want to go out and be proud of who we are, of what we are, light the Menorah both in public and at home,” he stated.

Though Hanukkah is a season of joy and rebirth, some people nevertheless feel conflicted about the ongoing war.

According to Evanston resident Judy Kotzin, “We’re supposed to love life at the same time that we know that it’s a very hard time for us.”

There were pictures of the several captives that Hamas still holds around the sufganiyot, or Israeli jelly doughnuts, dreidels, and chocolate gelt at the Israeli Consulate in Chicago.

Yinam Cohen, the Israel Consul General for the Midwest, stated, “They’ll be staying in the dark in Gaza while we’ll be celebrating the Festival of Lights.”

In part, they write, “With rising tensions in the Middle East and the escalating Israel-Hamas War, there is the potential for violence to be carried out by terrorist groups and supporters pushing their agendas.” The Illinois State Police are urging religious communities to exercise caution this holiday season.

Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, executive director of Chabad of Evanston, stated, “I am always careful of my surroundings and I think a person needs to be that, especially today when hatred is being promoted.”

As Hanukkah celebrations begin, Rabbi Klein advises being mindful and cautious, but he also believes there’s no need to go overboard.

You shouldn’t let that worry stop you,” he replied. Hanukkah, to me, is a time when we can say, “Be proud of who you are. Take pride in your identity.” Put on a yarmulke, fulfill a mitzvah, and proudly display your mezuzah, or Jewish star.

During Hanukkah celebrations and menorah lightings in the northern suburbs, police were present.

“Terrorists may look to holiday events, particularly those of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths, as potential targets to instigate violence,” the state police said in a statement.

However, a lot of people declared tonight that they will not succumb to terror.

Perhaps we think of all the people who aren’t celebrating tonight, but we have to live each minute as though it were our last “said Evanston resident David Rubel.

The Illinois State Police is alerting the public about the increased likelihood of violent calls around the holidays and asking them to report any unusual activity.

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