Denver’s diverse Jewish community has a Hanukkah celebration for everybody

It’s time for the festival of lights.

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Allan Tellis. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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This year has flown by and Hanukkah season has already arrived. The holiday, also known as the “festival of lights,” will be occurring this year from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10. Although it’s not one of the Jewish tradition’s major holidays, according to Alex Amchislavskiy, the operations director at the Jewish Experience, it does provide a unique opportunity for Jews to connect during the holiday season.

“It’s not as theologically important as maybe a passover or the new year. However, especially here in American society, with the proximity to New Years and Christmas, it’s an opportunity for Jewish people to reconnect to their holiday,” Amchislavskiy said.

With the timing and the lack of religious ceremony in comparison to other Jewish holidays, he said these celebrations can be especially fun to attend for those who may not be as familiar with other festivities in the Jewish community.

“There isn’t as much religious ritual to the event as there is, say, surrounding the high holidays. It’s about being joyous, having food and music,” Amchislavskiy said.

“There definitely are options for everybody,” said Andra Davidson, the vice president of marketing and events for Jewish Colorado. “If you’re orthodox, your synagogue is undoubtedly hosting something thats fits how you want to celebrate. If what you love about the holiday is the lights and dreidels, there’s something for you as well,” Davidson said.

Davidson says one of the most important functions of Jewish Colorado is to help facilitate communication between all of the various Jewish communities in the city and state. In that vein they have crafted this handy-dandy list of ways to celebrate Hanukkah in the Denver area.

She also noted that one of the more prominent features of Denver’s Jewish community is its inclusive nature and willingness to warmly accept everybody that wants to be involved.

“You have the ability to find a home regardless of your particular level of observation. That’s a really attractive quality of Denver in our Jewish community,” Davidson said.

Amchislavskiy noted that diversity of representation especially important in the Jewish tradition because the group of people that Judaism envelops is much larger than many other religious and cultural sects.

“It’s a really important opportunity because Jews are not just a religion, we’re a culture, we’re an ethnicity,” he says. 

Hanukkah celebration at the National Asthma Center in Denver, c. 1950s. Fannie Lorber, co-founder of the Denver Sheltering Home for Jewish Children, which evolved into the National Asthma Center is seated to the left of the young girl. (Courtesy of the Ira M. and Peryle Hayutin Beck Memorial Archives)

Hanukkah celebration at the National Asthma Center in Denver, c. 1950s. Fannie Lorber, co-founder of the Denver Sheltering Home for Jewish Children, which evolved into the National Asthma Center is seated to the left of the young girl. (Courtesy of the Ira M. and Peryle Hayutin Beck Memorial Archives)

Davidson says the country’s current tense political climate and the recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes will not act as a deterrent as Jews in Denver celebrate their festival of lights.

“I’d love to say this a new problem, we all know that’s not the case, but it does take a certain commitment and resolve that Jewish people have had to find and exercise regularly over the years. I don’t ever think it wavered, these kind of tragic events just remind us that we have to be vigilant and attentive and we can’t let our guard down,” Davidson says.

“The response from the world has been that love will win,” she says. “It’s a horrible tragedy but we also have to keep the big picture in mind, that the majority of the people in the world are hopefully good people, and by having acts of celebration and demonstrating our faith, we have to keep doing that, we can continue to grow awareness of the importance of acceptance of all different people.”

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