Europe’s Jews prepare public Hanukkah events to ‘drive out darkness’

A menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Dec. 16, 2014. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

  AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Before Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal had planned to invite hundreds of people to the traditional lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at a large menorah erected at the city’s Brandenburg Gate monument. But he decided to change his original… Read more »

Hanukkah gift ideas for newcomers to the tribe

(MyJewishLearning via JTA) — Do you have friends or family members who are new to the tribe? Maybe they recently converted, married a Jew or became newly interested in their Jewish roots? Or maybe you’re the newbie and are wondering what to put on your wish list. Whatever the… Read more »

6 new Hanukkah kids’ books to help enlighten the holiday

(JTA) — From a new audio version of “Hanukkah Bear” — a holiday favorite by National Jewish Book Award winner Eric A. Kimmel — to a novel for young teens set during the Festival of Lights, there is a fresh crop of Hanukkah books that are sure to delight… Read more »

Why I light my menorah in the window — and you should, too

The new Hanukkah stamp provided an unexpected source of inspiration for a writer. (Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service)

  LOS ANGELES (JTA) — In the weeks before Hanukkah, with anticipation of the holiday brightly filling my mind, the darkening news of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. began to filter in. As I pictured our menorahs burning in their usual place —  the front windows of our home —… Read more »

Menorah sculpture will light up Tucson nights

Tucsonan Danny Levkowitz finished his steel menorah in time to celebrate Chanukah 2015.

Tucsonan Danny Levkowitz recently finished building this 15-foot tall menorah, his first attempt at sculpture, at his east side home. Made of steel rebar with LED lights, the menorah took over two months to create, but it is something Levkowitz, the owner of Sun Lighting, has been dreaming about… Read more »

How to not spoil your interfaith kids during the holiday season

Susan Katz Miller

(Kveller via JTA) — “We get twice the presents!” Most interfaith kids will utter this classic, and rather obnoxious, boast at some point during childhood. And I have to admit, it makes me wince and grit my teeth a little. As an interfaith child myself, I understand all too… Read more »

At White House Chanukah party, Obama emphasizes freedom and food

President Obama speaking at the first of two White House Chanukah parties in Washington, D.C., dec. 17, 2014. (Steve Sheffey)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — I’ve been JTA’s Washington bureau chief for 11 years, but this was the first time I scored a coveted invitation to the annual White House Chanukah  party. A Washington tradition started by President George W. Bush, the party has actually expanded (to meet demand) to two:… Read more »

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s ‘lower guilt’ latkes

Latkes (@DWSTweets) (Debbie Wasserman Schultz posted this photo on Twitter)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — South Florida congresswoman, chair of the Democratic National Committee, mother of three school-age children — is also, apparently, something of maven in the kitchen. Wasserman Schultz (aka @cleancookingcongresswoman) maintains an Instagram account devoted to her culinary adventures, and was tweeting over the weekend about,… Read more »

Chocolatiers raising the bar when it comes to Chanukah gelt

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sharing their favorite Jewish chocolate experiences recently, a group of about 60 chocolate lovers didn’t even mention Hanukkah gelt. That is, until one woman at the New Jersey get-together shared her thoughts on the subject. “It is sucky,” she said, meaning that the chocolate is… Read more »

Mimosas without menorahs: Brunch jazzes up ho-hum Chanukah

Peanut butter and jelly Sufganiyot: Israeli-style doughnuts with the classic American pairing. (Shannon Sarna)

NEW YORK (JTA) — One of my favorite ways to celebrate Hanukkah is over brunch. Yes, it’s nontraditional — and you can’t enjoy the experience of lighting the menorah together or singing. But it’s a great way to change up the routine, especially if you have young kids and… Read more »

FIRST PERSON: Thoughts of Chanukah applesauce and a bygone era

BALTIMORE (JTA) – Beyond the rusty orange leaves, the sky hugging the orchard flourished in pastel blue – a hue that surprisingly didn’t define my mood while stretched out upon the grass, head nestled in interlocked palms that sweet October day. Surprisingly because the Sunday afternoon outing marked a… Read more »

What makes Chanukah great in America

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (JTA) – As Hanukkah nears, let the grousing begin. Too much is made of a holiday that Judaism ranks as a minor festival — one whose rite takes no more than five minutes to complete each night — some American Jews will say. Some will complain… Read more »

Beyond latkes: Chanukah around the world

SAN FRANCISCO ( — Hanukkah is observed with joy and celebration in Jewish communities around the world. There are eight nights of lights and blessings the world over, but there are also many ways that different communities make the holiday uniquely their own. Here are eight customs and ideas… Read more »

‘Top your own’ party gives latkes a lift

Brisket-topped latkes: not your ordinary meat and potatoes (Shannon Sarna)

NEW YORK (JTA) — There’s nothing quite like that first night of Hanukkah: a platter full of hot, crispy latkes and the accompanying applesauce and sour cream. It’s classic, delicious and a beloved comfort food for so many American Jews. But by the third or fourth night, I need… Read more »

Chanukah feature: Music hath charms to soothe December Dilemma

A CD set of Christmas and Chanukah music provided the inspiration for the title for the new exhibtion at Philadelphia's Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. (Courtesy Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation)

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) – In text accompanying a new exhibition at this city’s National Museum of American Jewish History, Sammy Davis Jr. is quoted on why he converted to Judaism. “I became a Jew because I was ready and willing to understand the plight of a people who fought for… Read more »

Chanukah gifts for bookworms

(Courtesy of Riverhead; photo of Sarah Wildman by Kate Warren)

(JTA) — Looking for a  Chanukah gift for the bibliophile in your life? Here are some 2014 Jewish-themed selections spanning fiction, memoir and essay collections. “All I Know and Love” (William Morrow) By Judith Frank In the tradition of the great 19th-century domestic novels, Judith Frank brings us the… Read more »