Chanukah Stories

Tales of Light

From Teheran to Charkov, from frozen Siberia to futuristic LA, from the Holocaust to a South African prison -- Chanukah stories that illuminate our lives

Chanukah Lights in Soviet Prison
"How would I obtain oil and wicks in a sealed-off prison cell? And even if I did get them, how would I hide them from the guards?"
Were My Wealthy Hosts Fugitive Nazis?
No matter how much I tried to forget about my Jewish roots, it kept emerging front and center in my life, sometimes in frightening ways.
When Chanukah Lasted 10 Days
Our small flames only burned for a few short minutes each night, but at least we fulfilled the mitzvah to publicize the miracle of Chanukah, feeling deep in our hearts that miracles could still happen to us and that all was not lost
The First Hanukkah Light in Bergen Belsen
A wooden clog became a hanukkiah; strings from a uniform, a wick; and shoe polish, pure oil.
Dad Was In Prison, and I Didn't Know If I Was Jewish
On the windowsill stood a silver candelabra large enough to hold nine candles and a box of tall candles. I understood I was being initiated into a rite I hadn’t known existed until that moment.
A Pet Shelter, a Tin Menorah, and an Averted Suicide
An 8-year-old girl’s suggestion saves a kindly man’s life
An 8-year-old girl’s suggestion saves a kindly man’s life
Saved by an Arab Angel
I will never forget that night, five years ago, when my husband and I almost died. It was an event of pure terror coupled with the deepest faith in G-d. Even now, so many years later, tears come to my eyes when I speak about it.
Chanukah 1944 in Buchenwald
How a brave group of Jews outsmarted their S.S. captors
We felt that a little Hanukkah light would warm our starving souls and inspire us with hope, faith, and courage
The Little Boy Who Discovered His Holiday Light
One frosty morning in December, the children from Joshie’s class were led to a bus and dropped off with their teachers in the busy downtown area of their city. Their goal was to show the children the holiday season’s displays and the intricately decorated shop windows.
How the Gulag Judge Lit the Menorah
As the Siberian winter deepened, Chanukah came, and a group of young Jewish prisoners convened for a short meeting.
Surprise Guests on a Freezing Chanukah Night
The Hechts, who had no idea the Rosernbergs were on their way, lived a mile or two away. The Rosenbergs for 40 minutes, maybe an hour.
My Chanukah Miracle: The Beating of a New Heart
I don’t know what happened. I opened up my eyes and stared straight up at the dark, starry sky. Why was I flat on my back on the sidewalk? Where was I?
A Soul Comes Home on Chanukah
He listened quietly, then handed me a brochure. “There’s a seminar coming up on Chanukah, in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn. It’s for college students and others. You stay with a family over Shabbat. You might want to go.”
Time-Traveling Candles
We are getting ready for the New Year at school. There is a huge Christmas tree in the auditorium, decorated with balls and garlands. During the day we practice for the end-of-year concert, where I play a “snowflake”—just like all the other Russian girls. But I can’t wait for the nighttime, when a different holiday will enter my life—the one I don’t talk about in school. It’s my Chanukah . . .
Pilot Light
Video | 2:48
Pilot Light
It wasn’t easy to be a commercial pilot and a religious Jew at the same time, but Mordechai somehow managed. He was familiar with at least one rabbi in each city on his route, and tried his best to help them out, bringing kosher supplies and even Torah scrolls to isolated congregations.
How a Chanukah Menorah Changed My Life
One man’s search for his buried treasure.
A Holocaust Chanukah Miracle
Surrounded by strangers, he was afraid to strike a match or recite a blessing for fear of calling undue attention to himself and his family.
The Miracle of the Long Candles
While in the forest, thieves came upon me, took all my money and said they were going to kill me...
What One Menorah Lighting Can Do
Nearly three years ago I decided to drop Judaism entirely. I was fed up with the entire venture.
The Menorah That Lit Up My Life
I was walking by the waterfront, and a young man in a black hat ran up to me and politely asked, “Excuse me, are you Jewish?”
The Candle That Burned for 70 Years
Something was strange about the scene. Who was he, and what connection could he possibly have with this place?
The Dog Tag Dilemma
In September 1990 I went off to defend a country that I was prohibited from entering. The “Jewish” on my dog tag remained as clear and unmistakable as the American star on the hood of every Army truck . . .
The Vanishing Flame
It didn't blow out, there was no smoke, it just was not there anymore. It was as if it just flew off...
Spark on a Park Bench
The candles are burning low and he is staring at them. Flame meets flame and a soul ignites . . .
The Fifth Night
"It's Chanukah," cried Nachman, "the festival of miracles! We'll do the mitzvah the way it should be done. Not in some rusty can fished out from the garbage..."
A Long Day for Morgenstern
Night was when a creature's true colors were revealed, they use the cover of darkness for their darkest deeds
Kharkov, 1995
He slowly tries lighting the fourth and fifth. I close my eyes for the miracle, but there is none.
Teheran, 1980
During the Iranian occupation of the American embassy, Rabbi Hershberg was scheduled to travel to Iran
Candles Behind Bars
There are 50 states in the US, said the Rebbe, and all but one allowed Jewish inmates to light Chanukah candles
It Should Again See Light
My best friend was a girl of my age named Jeanette. One morning when I came to play, I saw her family being forced at gunpoint into a truck. I ran home and told my mother. “Don’t worry,” she said, “Jeanette will be back soon . . .”
The Bad Jew
My very own roommate, Jen, the Japanese-American, looked at me and said, loud and clear, "Bad Jew… off to the showers with you!"
She is a small woman, barely five feet tall. Her two feet tall candelabra was more than just a candle-holder
A Chanukah Postcard
It was just a postcard with a simple message, but to me it was a wonderful Chanukah present
Miracles Happen
He climbed up the steep mountainside, searching for help. It was an arduous climb, particularly because of the scorching sun
My Father's Maoz Tzur
My father's version is both melodic and mournful, complete with crashing crescendos and lilting liturgy. It is emotionally evocative of both the highs and lows in Jewish history...
The Flood
My Chanukah Lesson
Something was wrong. Almost in slow motion, I looked at the floor, and realized that it was glistening unnaturally.
Lighting Menorah with Gorbachev
And as the interpreter translated those words into Russian, Mikhail Gorbachev blushed.
Chanukah Miracle in the Emergency Room
Gently, the doctor breaks the devastating news to Debbie that Mark probably won't survive.
What Happened When We Took Four Kids to a Nursing Home for Chanukah
A family goes for a visit to a seniors' residence supplied with a menorah and holiday treats
Car Menorah Leads the Way, Quite Literally, in the Case of a Man Lost on Shabbat
Yoni Walz found a Chanukah haven in a Connecticut suburb, by surprise and with a little help
A Wounded IDF Soldier’s Chanukah Miracle
Truly special moment for an Israeli Defense Forces veteran and his family
The Miracle of the Missing Menorah
Whether it was a silver goblet, an ornate spice box, or the Shabbat candlesticks, all they could do was acknowledge the disappearance
The Miracle of the Menorah and the Deadbeat Husband
“Please, Berish,” said the dying man, closing his eyes, “protect the menorah as though your life depends on it.”
What Do I Stand For?
It was the twenty-fifth of December. A Jewish girl from Queens had fulfilled her secret dreams, decorating that bright, forbidden tree…
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