KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Hanukkah holiday for members of the Jewish faith begins Thursday night and is the first of eight nights celebrating the Festival of Lights.
It will be a different holiday this year, starting with how observers celebrate together.
"A hybrid mixture of a lot of different ways to celebrate," Congregation Beth Shalom's Rabbi David Glickman explained. "And so, we are having different Zoom festivities every single night for different populations in our synagogue to be able to virtually or actually light their Hanukkah menorahs, but light them virtually with other people. So you'll see other people on the Zoom call lighting with you. And in that way, we're creating a sense of community. Even though we're each in our own homes."
Rabbi Glickman added that the message of the holiday - celebrating the miracle of Temple restoration by the Maccabees after Syrian Greeks destroyed it - is a universal message.
"It's a time to give gratitude and to praise God for all the different miracles that we have in our life. And even though this is has been a dark time for our country and for the world with the pandemic," he said. "And there's certainly reasons to be sad and reasons to grieve and we shouldn't take away those reasons, and at the same time simultaneously, we can look for the miracles, look for the sparks of light and really try to bring light to other people. And that's what Hanukkah is essentially about."
Jewish Family Services has stepped up its operations this time of year as well. They recently held a gift-giving drive to help those in need.
"We have lots of people who filled out a wish list to be able to get gifts that they want to be able to open, so and then we had adults receive gift cards and fun little goodies to open we provide a little Hanukkah goodie bags that volunteers took home and put together, made handmade cards so lots of ways for people to get involved in the program, but also our clients are so appreciative of being able to open something special for the holiday that starts on Thursday," said Taly Friedman, JFS director of volunteer engagement.
Those gifts will go to more than 350 families, but JFS has also seen an increased need for their other services.
"It's been a really hard year for families. We've seen a significant increase in our food pantry, so we're serving over 900 families a month and our food pantry, we're seeing significant increase in our mental health services. So we really wanted to still be able to do this and our donors and supporters really stepped up to go online and purchase gifts to donate gift cards to come in and volunteer to be able to make it happen and still be able to provide gifts to people," Friedman said.