Hanukkah celebrations go virtual, provide message of resilience

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 5:10 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins December 10th this year and lasts eight days. Rabbi Darah Lerner of Congregation Beth-El in Bangor says the celebration is a bit different this year.

”We’re taking advantage of the sacred spaces that FaceTime and Zoom and all of those can create for us. We use Zoom for Torah study, for Friday evening services, for major Jewish holidays.”

And now for minor holidays too.

Hanukkah doesn’t have the same religious importance as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Passover but has taken on a larger space in Jewish traditions because its proximity to other major holidays like Christmas

“It’s a minor holiday Jewishly but that bigger space has some real pluses. We’re supposed to be public. That’s why you see people putting menorahs in windows so that people can see them.”

Rabbi Lerner says the messages of Hanukkah are well-suited to the trials of 2020.

“There are two basic stories that Hanukkah tells every year that I think are particularly important. One is resilience.”

The other is the celebration of light over darkness, stemming from the story of how one day’s worth of oil kept a lamp burning for eight days.

“Normally we would have a big event at our synagogue where everybody brings their menorah from home and we would be joyously, and a tad concerned, lighting 30, 40, 50 menorahs indoors and sharing the smells and taste of latkes, potato pancakes and jelly donuts. This year that isn’t happening in person.”

Instead Congregation Beth-El is hosting a nightly zoom menorah lighting.

“One family will host and have the menorah and they will light and say the blessings. The other families will join in from their homes. Then the host family will share a memory, a story, or a song that’s meaningful to them.”

Rabbi Lerner says anyone curious about the holiday is welcome to reach out and contact Congregation Beth-El or visit

“Just hoping that everyone stays safe, healthy, has a meaningful holiday season and that we all get to celebrate in health and safety in the coming year with our family and friends.”

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