Windsor’s Jewish community is in the midst of marking Hanukkah without pandemic restrictions for the first time since 2019 — but they’re doing so as anti-Semitism spikes.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, acts of hate targeting Jews is higher than it has been in 40 years – citing anti-Semitic statements made by rapper Kanye West as adding fuel to the fire.
Hazzan Devorah Fick of Beth El Windsor says, while she doesn’t feel unsafe in Windsor, the problem doesn’t stop at the border.
“I think that in North America we experience the same media and especially here in Windsor, we have very close access to media from Detroit,” Fick says.
She says Hanukkah provides a great opportunity to welcome those outside the community. Posing that many who stray towards hate might simply be uninformed.
“If you see something that is Jewish, it’s okay to come up and ask a Jewish person: ‘what is that? Why are you here? What are you doing?'”
“We would be happy to talk about it rather than having people not really understand and then react in a way that is hurtful or harmful,” says Fick.
Rabbi Sholom Galperin, with Chabad Windsor, says the festival, which is observed by lighting the candles of a menorah each night, can itself serve as a beacon of light.
“A little bit of kindness dispels a lot of darkness,” he says.
“You only need a small little candle to light a whole room.”
Galperin says it’s important for Jews to take pride in their identity, particularly during this time of celebration.
He says he himself has been enjoying Hanukkah with his family and community.
“I love it,” says Galperin. “I can get onto the floor and play the dreidel game with my kids.”
Food, he says, is a major part of the festival.
“We commemorate with a lot of oily food – it’s not the best for cholesterol or a holiday that’s good for a person’s heart, but once in a while it’s okay. All in moderation,” says Galperin.
Hanukkah ends the evening of Dec. 26