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Families gathered at the South Philadelphia Shtiebel on Thursday to kick off Hanukkah. While spending time in their spiritual home, those who attended kept their loved ones in Israel close to their hearts.
The menorah was lit as the war between Israel and Hamas continues — a conflict that occupies the minds of many partaking in the joyous celebration.
Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter lit the menorah inside. She said traditionally it’s lit outdoors, but “in times of great persecution,” the candles were lit inside Jewish homes.
“What we do is we light the candles of the menorah both facing in and facing out,” Fruchter said. “This kind of aggressive move towards hopefulness both facing inwards in our own homes and in our own experiences and facing outwards in a world of darkness that really needs it. And at a heartbreaking time for the Jewish people, the lights of the menorah are more important than ever.”
Naomi Geschwind said she was happy to spend Thursday evening in her “home away from home,” making the most of the holiday celebration.
“It’s a moment that’s wonderful to get to, given what’s been going on,” Geschwind said. “And having a place where I can step back from all of those sorts of things is really, really important.”
Anne Weiss attended with a heavy heart as her son, Daniel Livingston, is living in Israel as the war with Hamas continues.
She says the community at the shtiebel has kept her spirits high, and Thursday night showed her “the Jewish people have a bright future.”
“This is a Hanukkah about Jews surviving tyranny and oppression and this holiday reminds us that although we face a lot of danger right now, we can hope in the future because we know that we have faced times like this before and have always come together and been able to survive,” Weiss said. “And I’m confident that will survive these times as well.”
Rabbi Joshua Frankel’s family is from Israel. While he was in his spiritual home at the shtiebel, his heart was with his family back home.
“It feels almost unfair to be able to be treating ourselves right now,” Frankel said. “So this year, I think rather than being a commemoration of a war ending, it’s sort of maybe a prayer today that we should be able to have that rest soon, that all people should be able to have that rest soon.”
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