As public Hanukkah celebrations around the nation are being canceled or subdued as a war continues in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas terrorists, the Jewish community in many parts of Wyoming plans to keep shining their lights.
Jackson Hole Jewish Community Executive Director Mary Grossman told Cowboy State Daily there was no thought to follow the examples in other parts of the U.S., including cancellation of a prominent Washington, D.C., celebration or a Williamsburg, Virginia, menorah lighting.
“Heck no, we’re not canceling it,” she said of Jackson’s events. “That is what the haters want. We do have lots of security hired and we’re extra vigilant.”
She believes the cancellations reported by national media are because the Jewish congregations in those communities did not want to offend pro-Palestinian protesters. While the Jackson Hole valley offers some peace from the controversies blowing in the world, almost all of the more than 500-member local community have loved ones or friends impacted by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and massacre.
“We do have sadness,” she said. “It is unsettling, and we are a little freaked out by what’s going on.”
Tradition Wins Out
Lighting the nine-stemmed Hanukkiah menorah is a way to keep traditions and maintain normalcy. The eight-day holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of Jewish guerrilla fighters over the Greek empire and a miraculous supply of oil to restart worship in their temple.
While Hanukkah started at sundown Thursday, the Jackson celebration starts Friday as a community. The party will feature a Jewish band from Utah playing Yiddish music. A caterer is supplying 300 latkes, potato pancakes served with applesauce, and there will be other traditional treats. More than 100 tickets have been sold.
In Cheyenne, Rabbi Moshe Halfon of the Mount Sinai congregation said his community plans to have its celebration as well, but on Sunday.
“We are going ahead with everything, and it’s fine,” he said, adding that, “We will have security.”
Back in Jackson, Grossman said the lighting ceremony, which involves lighting one candle each day for the eight-day period, will probably feature the lighting of about 20 menorahs or candlesticks. She believes the symbolism especially resonates this year.
“Hanukkah is about bringing light to the darkest time of the year,” Grossman said. “You are supposed to light the Hanukkiah in the window. That is the metaphor for this time of year.”
Dale Killingbeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.