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List of Hanukkah Celebrations Canceled and Toned Down Across US This Year

With reported instances of antisemitism on the rise in the U.S. in the wake of renewed violence in the Middle East, several Hannukah celebrations have either been canceled or tempered.

According to watchdog StopAntisemitism, since Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants staged a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, it has experienced a 1,500 percent increase in reported incidents. In the first month following the attack, another organization, the Anti-Defamation League, said reports of antisemitism had risen 316 percent year-on-year.

When questioned about its response to these cancelations, the White House faced a backlash for also noting a rise in Islamophobia that has occurred at the same time. Its own Hannukah party is set to take place on Monday, The Washington Post reported.

Disney World, in Florida, and Disneyland, in California, meanwhile have maintained their plans to commemorate the festival—which begins on Thursday night.

Hannukah is not a strictly religious festival, but has become a major part of Jewish culture. It is the only Jewish festival that marks a military victory: when the Maccabees successfully recovered Jerusalem from the then Seleucid emperor Antiochus in the second century BC.

After the Second Temple was sacked by the Seleucids, the story goes, the Maccabees only had enough lamp oil for one night, but it lasted for eight days—which are represented by the eight candles on a hanukkiah lit over the course of eight days.

But while many Jews see Hanukkah as representing light and hope, some have viewed its usual mirth as inappropriate in the context of the war between Israel and Hamas.

A hanukkiah lighting had been scheduled to take place at the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 10, but it has since been canceled. Shirley Vermillion, the festival’s founder, told the Daily Press that the event “seemed very inappropriate” given the conflict.

“The concern is of folks feeling like we are siding with a group over the other[…]not a direction we ever decide to head,” she said.

The United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula issued a statement criticizing the decision, and claimed festival organizers had offered to reinstate the event if it were held under a banner calling for a ceasefire.

Virginia’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin urged the organizers to reconsider the decision, writing on Monday: “Singling out the Jewish community by canceling this Hanukkah celebration is absurd.”

According to the Religious News Service, an annual bash in Washington D.C. called Latkes and Vodka was also canceled this year by its host, Steve Rabinowitz, a media consultant and former press aide in the Bill Clinton White House.

In an email on Tuesday, he reportedly said: “I just don’t feel right hosting a party this year, given October 7 and in the middle of an actual war.”

The Zony Mash Beer Project, a brewery and events space in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was due to hold a Hanukkah celebration on the first night of the festival, abruptly announced it was canceling the event on Wednesday.

In a statement, it attributed the decision to “external tensions,l” without specifying what those were.

“Our intent has always been to host a lighthearted and conflict-free celebration, providing a space for diverse communities to come together and enjoy the spirit of Hanukkah,” the beer project wrote. “Unfortunately, challenges beyond our control have compromised our ability to ensure a joyful and safe environment.”

Adam Mayer, a Jewish activist who runs a pop-up called Latke Daddy, who has publicly criticized Israel’s intervention in Gaza, said in his own statement that he had been disinvited “respectfully” after other members of the Jewish community expressed unhappiness with his position.

A Jewish-owned house in Houston, Texas which has for the past few years with a blue and white light display, encouraging others to visit it, said it would be toning down the display this year over the war between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement on November 26, the owners said: “In light of current events, the Hannukah House is still aglow, with only white lights in the hope of peace.”

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, an author and president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, will still be celebrating Hanukkah at home, but will not be hosting an open house this year as he traditionally does.

“I don’t entirely know how you can celebrate a festival of victory fully and completely when we are a people at war,” he told the Religious News Service. “That’s a challenge.”