Celebrating Hanukkah Where You Live

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) - While lights go up around the state of Arkansas in preparation for Christmas, in the Jewish community the celebration of Hanukkah has already begun, and everyone is excited.

Hanukkah dates back to when the Jewish people reclaimed their holy temple from the Greeks around 150 B.C. and is celebrated for eight nights.

University of Arkansas Hillel Outreach Chair Toby Klein told 5NEWS the significance, "The miracle is that there was oil that was only supposed to last for one night, and instead it lasted for eight until we were able to purify new oil."

As with most historical stories, Rabbi Jacob Adler is quick to point out that"The real story is a lot more complicated."

While not a very religious holiday, Hanukkah took on a much more significant role in modern times, especially here in America.

"Presents were added in the 19th century," notes Stanley Rest, President of Temple Shalom of Northwest Arkansas.

"Just imagine you're a Jewish parent, and your kid's saying 'Well, Billy and Suzy are getting Christmas presents, aren't we getting anything?' and so in America, it's developed into a gift-giving holiday," said Rabbi Adler.

This year especially, the chance to celebrate something together takes on a special significance in the Arkansas Jewish community.

"It's not lost on us that in the wake of Pittsburgh and the wake of anti-semitism, it's really a miracle that the Jewish people are able to survive after continuous oppression, and a miracle that we are able to celebrate together," says Toby Klein, the Hillel Outreach chair.

Rest agrees.

"It's extremely important and healing, so even though the days are getting darker, we increase the light every night."

Tuesday marks the third night of the Festival of Lights; before it's over next Monday, dreidels will be spun, latkes will be eaten, and the lights on every menorah will burn bright.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.