Hundreds celebrate Hanukkah throughout the Quad Cities

“It’s our festival of light at the darkest point of the year, everyone needs lights!”
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:43 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:24 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is on its sixth night on Friday. Around the world, many are celebrating the holiday, where Jews regained control of their temple more than 2,000 years ago. The story says Assyrian Greeks were prohibiting Jews from practicing their religion and desecrating their temple, making it punishable by death to read from their Taura. A band of Jewish fighters took on the army and lit their menorah with enough oil for one day - but it kept their menorah lit for eight days! To commemorate the miracle, you light the menorah each night of Hanukkah and eat food like Latkas and donuts, fried in oil.

Rabbi Linda Bertenthal with Temple Emanuel and Congregation Beth Israel says Hanukkah is one of their more fun minor holidays. While it’s not in their scripture, she says it is one of their most public and festive days. “One major part of what makes Hanukkah so special to us, is it’s a holiday where we declare our determination. Not to be snuffed out, not to let the light of justice go out, the Jewish people or traditions ever die. It’s just a nice time to be able to gather together and feel safe,” said Rabbi Bertenthal.

“It’s our festival of light at the darkest point of the year, everyone needs lights!”

Rabbi Linda Bertenthal

This is the first Hanukkah in the new synagogue for two congregations, as they just merged a few weeks ago. This brings the community together, during what has been challenging months for all. Rabbi Bertenthal says both congregations have different tolerances for COVID-19, which means some celebrations may be in person, virtual, or hybrid. “I feel very blessed to be somewhere we feel safe and where no one has harassed us in any way.”

Rabbi Bertenthal says celebrating this year reminded her of the troubles they had last year after someone vandalized Temple Emanuel on the first day of Hanukkah. “To have any person stereotyped negatively is to have an insult to God and all of God’s creations. It will tend to lead us away from justice and compassion. In Judaism, the whole mission is to lead us towards justice and towards compassion. So, it’s something we take seriously whether directed towards us or someone else,” she said.

These celebrations allow for hundreds in the Quad Cities to express their faith. “We feel a great sense of gratitude because it allowed us to exist today,” added Rabbi Bertenthal.

Hanukkah is celebrated through Monday night. Each congregation at Beit Shalom in Davenport has nearly 100 families.

Rabbi Bertenthal says this year one of their students, Ethan Geifman, will be honored at an international event in Los Angeles on Sunday Night for his leadership against antisemitism. Congratulations!

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