COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The first candles are lit as Menorahs shine through the windows of Jewish households celebrating the first night of Hanukkah.
This year, members of Columbus’ Jewish community said their unyielding displays of faith mean more than ever.
“I think the lesson of Hanukkah, although it happened thousands of years ago, is more relevant, more pertinent now than it ever was before,” Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, of Chabad Columbus, said.
With displays of anti-Semitism growing across the country, members of the Jewish community said this year in particular, they won’t be deterred from celebrating their faith.
Jewish faith leaders said that while Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, its message is universal.
“I think the lesson of Hanukkah is that light pushes away darkness,” Kaltmann said.
Kaltmann feels the pain of anti-Semitism deeply in his family. His father is a Holocaust survivor, and his grandparents were killed before he ever even knew them.
Banishing that darkness, he said, is the essence of the holiday.
“The way you do away with the darkness, with the hate, with the bigotry, with the prejudice, is by lighting a flame,” he said. “By lighting a candle of hope, of love, of inclusion.”
Anti-Semitic rhetoric has been felt nationally after recent remarks by the likes of musical artist Kanye West and NBA star Kyrie Irving, but it’s felt locally as well.
In March, anti-Semitic threats were made against the Columbus Torah Academy and anti-Semitic graffiti was found on Ohio State University’s campus. Jewish Columbus even hired a new security director in the wake of the threats.
“The whole history of the Jewish people is resilience, and that’s the story of Hanukah,” said Justin Shaw, of Jewish Columbus.
Shaw said this year especially, members of the Jewish community are making it a point to put their Menorah in the window.
“We fought really hard to preserve our way of life,” Shaw said. “To be free of persecutions, to practice what we believe in, and live without fear.”
Now, Shaw and others are calling on members of other faiths to stand up and be their own light during dark times.
“I encourage everyone to just have the dialogue,” he said. “Tell them how it makes you feel and respond back that it’s not right.”
Chabad Columbus will be hosting eight nights of fun, with different events throughout the Hanukkah festival. For more information on those events, head to their website.