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Hanukkah, with record crowds at­tend­ing thou­sands of pub­lic meno­rah light­ings.

In cen­tral Ohio, this year’s Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tions, in­clud­ing the Wed­nes­day event in Bex­ley, have been big­ger than ever, said Rabbi Areyah Kalt­mann, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lori Schot­ten­stein Chabad Cen­ter in New Al­bany. There is a pub­lic meno­rahlight­ing event ev­ery night of the eight-day fes­ti­val.

“We be­lieve in adding light and good­ness and kind­ness in ev­ery­thing we do,” Kalt­mann said. “That’s what the meno­rah light­ings across Columbus are all about.”

The pub­lic events have be­come even more im­por­tant be­cause of the rise of anti-Semitism in Amer­ica, said lo­cal Jewish lead­ers.

“Hanukkah is a joy­ful time of year,” said Joel Mar­cov­itch, CEO of JewishColum­bus, cre­ated this year when the Columbus Jewish Foun­da­tion and the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Columbus merged. Mar­cov­itch added that this year’s cel­e­bra­tion has taken on sig­nif­i­cant mean­ing be­cause of the tragedy in Pitts­burgh.

“The world is a dark

place, we need to be the light, and spread the light,” he said. “Hanukkah is an op­por­tu­nity to see the light. Ev­ery day, the light grows.”

Since the syn­a­gogue shoot­ing, a Duke Univer­sity mu­ral made as a trib­ute to the vic­tims was de­faced by a swastika; anti-Semitic graf­fiti was sprayed on a Columbia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor’s of­fice walls; and a man said “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump” and did the Nazi salute dur­ing a “Fid­dler on the Roof” per­for­mance in Bal­ti­more.

“Peo­ple who tar­get Jews, I think they ex­pect us to cower in fear, and we want to re­spond with in­creased Jewish pride, and that’s one of the re­ally big things with the light­ing of the meno­rah,” said Chaim Landa, spokesman for Chabad. org, a flag­ship web­site of the Chabad-Lubav­itch Ha­sidic move­ment, which has more than 1,000 cen­ters in the coun­try. “It’s about shar­ing the mes­sage of Hanukkah as well as the sym­bol of Jewish pride.”

The cen­tral Ohio fes­tiv­i­ties are among ap­prox­i­mately 250,000 meno­rahs and 11 mil­lion can­dles be­ing lit through­out the United States and Canada for Hanukkah, ac­cord­ing to Hanukkah means ded­i­ca­tion and cel­e­brates the reded­i­ca­tion of the holy tem­ple in Jerusalem af­ter it was re­claimed when Jews won a three-year war against a

larger and stronger Syr­ian and Greek army in 164 B.C.

To reded­i­cate the tem­ple, they needed oil to light the meno­rah but could only find enough to keep the flames burn­ing for one night. In­stead, the oil lasted for eight days.

An ini­tia­tive to en­cour­age pub­lic meno­rah light­ings be­gan 45 years ago, in 1973, and con­tin­ues to­day, nearly 2,200 years af­ter the vic­tory.

This year, more peo­ple were asked to par­tic­i­pate in pub­lic meno­rah light­ings across the coun­try as “a sign of sol­i­dar­ity and pride in the face of mount­ing anti-Semitism,” ac­cord­ing to Chabad. org.

“Our re­sponse to neg­a­tiv­ity is just to be more pos­i­tive, and au­to­mat­i­cally that’s how you banish dark­ness,” Kalt­mann said. “Even though Hanukkah is a Jewish fes­ti­val, it has a uni­ver­sal theme that we can com­bat dark­ness through light, kind­ness and acts of good­ness. We have to know we are never alone, and we are blessed with free­dom of re­li­gion in Amer­ica.”

For her part, Skol­nik said: “Through­out his­tory, the odds have al­ways been against the Jewish com­mu­nity, but I think that’s the amaz­ing thing. No mat­ter the odds, the Jewish com­mu­nity will al­ways be around.”

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