JNS: Car-menorah parades set to light up cities across Ukraine

Chanukah’s message of religious freedom and the power of youth resonate this year in particular.

By: Sarah Ogince | JNS

Chanukah celebrates light, religious freedom and—a theme less often emphasized—the potential of young people. This year, Jews around the world will take that celebration to the streets more powerfully than ever.

Last December, as Kyiv endured rolling blackouts, the city’s Jews kindled their menorahs privately at home, the tiny flames struggling against an omnipresent gloom. While the ensuing year brought little respite, the situation is now stable enough to permit large-scale celebration: Public menorah-lightings will be held all over the country, and—for the first time since the crisis began—parades of cars topped with illuminated menorahs will wind their way through the streets of at least four Ukrainian cities.

“The change this year is to really blow it up in terms of public acknowledgement,” said Judi Garrett, CEO of the Jewish Relief Network Ukraine, FJC and Chabad-affiliated humanitarian organization that is coordinating the events. “Chanukah is obviously very much about the children. These kids need normalcy in their lives, so we put a lot of work into it.”

The menorah parades are doubly welcome this year because of the war in Israel, Garret told JNS.

Israel has received an outpouring of support because Ukrainian Jews “feel the need for connection and community,”  Garrett said. “Support for Israel is another step in that continuum.”

Public expressions of Jewish pride are natural on the eight-day holiday, which begins this year on the evening of Dec. 7. Chanukah commemorates the victory of a small band of young, religious Jews over Seleucid Greek armies in the second century BCE.

In the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks, the holiday’s message of religious freedom is particularly resonant, and the desire to pass tradition on to the next generation is more urgent than ever.

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