Special to the Reporter
This Hanukkah, Mercer Island is seeing a surge in families’ public displays of the holiday and Jewish identity, with many more individuals planning to light their menorahs in visible places, such as their doors or windows. Mercer Island’s public Hanukkah gathering expects a larger-than-usual crowd this year in a strong statement of Jewish pride and confidence.
According to a Chabad Mercer Island press release: “It’s a fraught time for the Jewish people, with war in Israel, and with American Jews facing a major rise in antisemitism. While in the past, prior to Oct. 7, many Jews’ response to frightening developments of antisemitism may have been to hide their Jewishness, the post-Oct. 7 Jewish communal response has bucked all precedents. Jews are choosing instead to celebrate their identity this Hanukkah with more confidence and resolve.”
Chabad Mercer Island is organizing a public Hanukkah menorah lighting event with a massive 12-foot menorah at Mercerdale Park at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 7. The event will feature an array of entertainment for all ages, including live music, a magic show, hot drinks and a selection of traditional Hanukkah foods.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, launched the Hanukkah awareness campaign 50 years ago, in 1973 — in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in Israel — and in the half-century since, the “Festival of Lights” has revitalized widespread observance of Hanukkah and brought it to the mainstream. The Menorah, and indeed Hanukkah — with its universal message of freedom of the human spirit, freedom from tyranny and oppression, and of the ultimate victory of good over evil — has as a result become a part of American culture.
“The Rebbe taught that not only is celebrating Hanukkah a vital part of Jewish life — where it has become a potent point of light and Jewish pride and confidence for American Jews in the fight against darkness and antisemitism — but also represents key American values, namely those of liberty and independence,” said Rabbi Nissan Kornfeld of Chabad Mercer Island. “The holiday of Hanukkah underscores the fact that American culture has been enriched by the thriving ethnic cultures which contributed very much, each in its own way, to communal life, both materially and spiritually.”