Over a thousand festive events took place in the FSU during Chanukah this year, with every FJC community organizing many holiday celebrations. From Siberia to the Black Sea, Jews are participating in public Menorah lightings, coming to concerts and parties, enjoying tasty treats and bonding over shared heritage and traditions.
Besides general community events many more are organized for specific auditories: for young kids and parents; teens and young adults; veterans and the elderly – each FJC project is holding holiday-themed programs and activities.
“The winter is a tough season for most of the FSU region and our communities put a lot of effort into reaching the heart of every Jew and bringing them some warmth and light during this special holiday,” said Mr. Daniel Gordon, FJC coordinator. “Every community adds their own flavor to the celebrations, making Chanukah in the FSU a lively, vibrant and very public holiday,” he said.
FJC project leaders agree that nowadays those celebrating Chanukah no longer feel isolated and alone as was the case 30-some years ago after the break-up of the Soviet Union. “Our students today feel proud and excited about the holiday, they know that thousands of their peers across the region and millions across the world are celebrating with them – they feel included and connected,” said Mrs, Sarah Vernick of Darkeinu, the unique Jewish studies curriculum taught in Jewish Russian-speaking schools. This is a huge change in outlook and attitude compared to when the first overt Chanukah celebrations in the FSU began in the 90’s, she said. Darkeinu is running its annual region-wide Mega contest during the holiday.
Other projects are also finding a unique way to celebrate – EnerJew is running a charity campaign where every lit candle brings money to disadvantaged families; YAHAD activists are creating week-long volunteering activities, Or Avner schools and kindergartens are bringing holiday customs to students and their parents. “Overall, the FSU region is a very warm place this week if you look at the multitude of smiling faces across it,” Mr. Gordon said.