(JTA) — Hanukkah may be considered a “small holiday,” as the rabbis would say, but its resonance and unique traditions offer a great window into Jewish communities around the world.
We’ve collected eight images, one for each menorah candle, that give a snapshot of how Jews — and in a few cases, how a few notable non-Jews — are celebrating the Festival of Lights this year from Chile to Ukraine to Taiwan.
Most of the Jews of Kharkiv, formerly one of the centers of Jewish life in Ukraine, are believed to have left since the start of the Russian war in February. But on Sunday, residents of the northeastern Ukrainian city found some respite Sunday evening at Kharkiv Choir Synagogue, where participants made wax candles, wrapped tefillin and ate applesauce latkes in an event run by a local branch of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
The Denver branch of NCSY, the youth group of the Orthodox Union, unveiled the Lego menorah on Sunday, which was built by more than 425 teenagers and constructed from 25,000 Lego bricks. At more than 24 and a half feet tall, the structure will be dismantled and the bricks will be donated to children in foster care in the United States and in Israel.
Denver NCSY leader Rabbi Yonatan Nussen claims that this is the largest Lego menorah in the world, will be disassembled and the bricks will be donated to children in foster care in the United States and in Israel. However, another Lego menorah claims to deserve the title of the world’s largest – the one in Israel.
Tel Aviv, Israel
North Miami Beach-based artist Yitzchok Kasowitz claims his Lego Menorah at the Lego Store in the Dizengoff Center, built with about 130,000 pieces, is the largest of its kind. According to the Times of Israel, it only took a group of “Lego experts” two marathon days to put it together.
Chile’s far-left President Gabriel Borich has a complicated relationship with the majority of his country’s Jewish community, and he sparked a minor diplomatic crisis with Israel in September when he rejected the credentials of an Israeli envoy.
But on the Friday before Hanukkah, he attended his first official candlelight ceremony as president, which has become a tradition at La Moneda presidential palace for the past 14 years.
Speaking on Borich’s behalf, Chile’s General Secretary Ana Lia Uriarte said: “This holiday assures the right that everyone should practice their faith anywhere and at any time. To light these candles means to enlighten us in easy and difficult times.
For the first time since 1934, Helena’s Jewish community celebrated Hanukkah Sunday at Temple Emanu-El, the state’s first synagogue, after months of trying to buy the building from the Catholic diocese. The interfaith event was attended by nearly 150 guests who enjoyed a (much smaller) menorah lighting, latkes, a photo booth, arts and crafts and dreidel playing. For the first time in nearly 90 years, Hanukkah lights shone from this building.
Mumbai’s Jewish community, led by Chabad of Mumbai, lit a large menorah this week at India Gate, an early 20th-century arch-shaped monument. After the candles were lit, guests were treated to a Hanukkah performance by students at the local Jewish school, featuring dancing and plastic swords. About 5,000 Jews live in Mumbai today.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Public Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremonies were held in Brazil’s two most populous cities on Monday, where hundreds of people gathered to watch and the ceremonies were televised. Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro posted a photo of a menorah and a Bible in front of Brazilian and Israeli flags on her Instagram account, which received more than 420,000 likes. Her inscription included the blessing for the Hanukkah candles in Hebrew.
In the weeks leading up to Hanukkah, members of Taipei’s Taiwanese Jewish community head to the Yingge district — an area known for its pottery production — to shape and fire their own menorahs in what has become an annual tradition. Menorahs were then used to ring the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday.
Jordyn Haime contributed to this article.