Chanukah 5769 is one for the books — the Guinness Book of World Records.
Around the world this week, several Jewish communities vied to establish various records – largest menorah, largest crowd, largest number of menorahs concurrently lit – at their public celebrations of the Holiday of Lights.
'Chag sameach," said the rabbi, standing at a baby grand piano, surrounded by a living room packed with children and parents. "Happy holiday!"
"Chag sameach," shouted the three dozen kids, seated on the floor around the rabbi.
It was the Sunday night of Chanukah. The rabbi was Miriam Ancis, 1987 graduate of Hebrew Union College. The site was a brownstone in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, downtown, in the shadow of Williamsburgh Savings Bank.
New Haven, Conn. — For a long time Yale University was not a good place to be a Jewish student. The WASPy Ivy League school here maintained a Jewish quota from the 1920s until the ‘50s, limiting the number of Jews to 10 percent of the undergraduate class.
Since establishing the Middle East Coexistence House, a dormitory floor where Jews, Muslims and members of other faiths live together, at the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey three months ago, Danielle Josephs has described the innovative dialogue project to Jewish activists around the country, Rutgers donors and alumni, faculty members and representatives of non-governmental organizations and journalists.
On Monday she told the President of the United States about her idea.
On a typical Friday night, there are some empty seats in the sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El, Manhattan’s prestigious Reform congregation. Several hundred worshippers come usually.
On a typical Friday-night service during Chanukah, the numbers go up. To about a thousand. Last Friday night was standing room only.
There was more spin in the news last week — this time the politicians weren’t doing it, the U.S. Postal Service was.
In what has become an American philatelic tradition, the postal service issued a Chanukah stamp in time for the winter holiday season, which joins stamps issued in recent years for Christmas, Kwanzaa and a pair of Muslim holidays.
Every year for the past quarter-century, Rick Landman has held the same Torah scroll during the hakafot dancing on Simchat Torah at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Greenwich Village. The sefer Torah belongs to him.
Chanukah is that most pliable of Jewish festivals.
Pick a theme, superficial or substantive, and it’s all there in the ancient story of the eight-day observance that begins this year on Tuesday night. It’s a holiday that has as many messages as it does English spellings (Hannukah, Chanukah, etc.)