Dear Readers,

By now, most of us have cleaned the dripped wax or oil off our menorahs and stored them away until next year. But what remains with us are the memories of the glistening candles and the experiences that we may have shared with our friends or families.

This year, Chanukah celebrations were different than those of the past. With the war raging in Israel and so many of our hostages still languishing somewhere in the dark tunnels of Gaza, many of us felt the message of Chanukah and the victory of light over the darkness even more relatable than in previous years.

While post-Oct. 7 the Jewish community has been feeling increasingly scared of antisemitic incidents, so many of us chose not to cower, but to proudly celebrate our identity. Many more individuals lit their menorahs in visible places, such as their doors or windows, with more confidence and resolve than ever before.

Even some non-Jews, like many residents of Wyoming, chose to show solidarity with the Jewish people by likewise lighting a menorah on their window sills.

It was heartening to read about the hundreds of menorahs decorated by children who were evacuated from communities near the Gaza border that were delivered to our soldiers in the Gaza Strip. The menorahs were lovingly packed and sent with sweet treats and letters to remind our troops that the Jewish people are awaiting their safe return.

But the favorite image that remains imprinted in my mind is that of the giant, 15-foot menorah that was brought into Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, by a group of Chabad rabbis who also serve in the IDF as reserve soldiers. These soldiers traveled deep into Gaza to erect the menorah and it symbolized so much in this ongoing war.

In this week’s episode of Ordinary People with Extraordinary Stories, Rabbi Levi Mendelson describes how this menorah was brought into Gaza. He also shares personal stories from the family members of hostages and wounded soldiers whom he has visited. These heroes give us a glimpse into the beautiful, inextinguishable light of the Jewish people and how, despite the incredible darkness that they have witnessed, they still keep their light of faith and optimism shining brightly.

And, perhaps that is really the ongoing, deeper message of the miracle of Chanukah that remains with us long after our menorahs have been stored away: the continuous light of the Jewish soul that refuses to be smothered.

With prayers for the safety and security of all our brothers and sisters, and with heartfelt wishes that our hostages be quickly returned to their families.

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW