There are religious traditions which, carry the same meaning each year, but still undergo some evolution. For example, a central Kentucky Rabbi has noticed several changes in the way Hanukkah is celebrated. Hanukkah, or the festival of lights, runs until December 28th . The eight day religious holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem at the time of the second century Maccabean revolt. It’s not unusual to see attendance at Christian churches grow this time of year. And, Rabbi Moshe Smolkin of Ohavay Zion temple says a similar trend is often seen in synagogues.
“Many Jews do go probably and increase their observance of Hanukkah in this country partially due to Christmas,” said Smolkin.
For children, the Hanukkah tradition stresses helping people in need. Rabbi Smolkin says many kids receive a gift of money and are then asked to give to charities. Smolkin says such a concept seems to be a harder sell these days.
“And so it’s shifted and become for many children about…are there toys…what am I getting here…which is a different idea but partially due to the commercialization of a religion…that’s what happened,” added Smolkin.
Rabbi Smolkin says Hanukkah is not regarded as one of the more important Jewish Holidays, but it does attract a lot of attention. The menorah is a well recognized nine branch candelabrum. Some communities have been known to place a large menorah in a public square. Rabbi Smolkin is unsure of the message sent by such a display.
Bringing it out like a huge menorah in a public place…then…that’s an interesting thing…especially in our society. And thinking about how does that affect the ideas of Hanukkah being a minor holiday….are we doing it because of Hanukkah or are we doing it because of Christmas,” said Smolkin.
Rabbi Smolkin says it’s not unusual to see menorahs in the windows of Jewish households. He adds there are probably close to four thousand Jews in the central Kentucky area.