Spreading the Light, Fighting the Darkness


The Jewish community in Ukraine also lights Hanukkah candles in public locations. For the second year in a row, the Conservative/Masorti community has been celebrating the Holiday of Light by lighting candles on a large Hanukkiya placed in one of the main squares of Ukraine’s capital, Kontraktova Square in the historic district of Podyl. This year, the Hanukkiya was attacked by vandals who drew a swastika on it on the very first night of the holiday, splattered a red liquid resembling blood on the 6th night and took down the leaflets explaining the meaning and traditions of the holiday in the meantime.

Light in the Darkness? Hanukkah and its Possible Pagan Origins


What are the cultural-evolutionary origins of our Holiday of Lights? To be sure, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us in Tractate Shabbat 21a that the miracle of Hanukkah is what we teach our children, and perhaps why we eat latkes and jelly doughnuts, all laden with (way too much) oil. However other accounts of the story, including one other rabbinic source – the Al Ha’Nissim paragraph added to the Amida and Birkat Hamazon during the holiday – make no mention of this miracle.

What’s Missing from Hanukkah? Prof. Rabbi David Golinkin Shares Holiday History


On other holidays we read a megillah (scroll), but on Hanukkah why don’t we read a Hanukkah scroll? Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institutes, tells the fascinating history of the little known Megillat Antiochus, also known as the Book of the Hasmoneans, that was read in public between the 9th and 20th centuries.

The Most Popular Holiday in the Soviet Union? Rabbi Dr. David Frankel on Simchat Torah


Why was Simchat Torah the most publicly celebrated Jewish holiday in the Soviet Union? What was it that Soviet Jewry found so meaningful?  Rabbi Dr. David Frankel, senior lecturer in Bible at Schechter, describes this fascinating piece of Soviet Jewish history and explains how we can deepen the meaning of our own Simchat Torah celebrations today.  

Yom Kippur: Awareness of Our Human Vulnerability


There are probably numerous reasons people have for coming to shul for Kol Nidre, not least as stated in the prayers themselves: “We sanction prayer with the transgressors.” This phrase reflects the encounter of Jewish men and women who, on this night, are as transgressors who have come to ask forgiveness and atonement. But the heart of Kol Nidre does not deal with transgression; rather it pierces the human heart and highlights our vulnerability as humans, separate from our Creator.

From a Sacred City to a Capital City (and back again?)


I was born two years prior to the Six-Day War when Jerusalem was still a divided city, with barbed wire and concrete walls separating the two sections. Jerusalem totally changed by the time I grew up. It became a city without borders, an exciting and fascinating place, whose spaces were accessible to everyone. One could experience the city on a personal, one to one basis. My urban encounter spanned the entire city…