Durham Jews prepare for Hanukkah in the face of antisemitic violence

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Monday, December 12, 2022
Hanukkah excitement grows despite threat of antisemitic violence
As the start of Hanukkah nears, the Jewish Community in Durham readies plans to celebrate despite a rise in antisemitic incidents across the country.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- As the start of Hanukkah nears, the Jewish Community in Durham readies plans to celebrate in a big way despite a rise in antisemitic incidents across the country.

A part of that celebration kicked off Sunday with a pre-Hanukkah Festival. It was a joint partnership with Jewish for Good.

"We've been waiting so long to bring back the joy in the hearts of young children, and adults in the hope and optimism in adults. And this year, Hanukkah is really that expression," said Rabbi Zalman Bluming from Chabad Durham - Chapel Hill

Bluming lit the ice-sculpted Menorah at the festival Sunday. He was surrounded by several hundred families from across the Triangle.

The festival was centered around faith, hope, and being a positive light in the community. It was a message Bluming hoped resonated with children and adults.

"We're committed this year more than ever, giving out thousands of Hanukkah Menorahs so that every single home, every Jewish home is kindled with the light, faith, and optimism that comes from being part of the amazing miracles of Hanukkah," he continued.

The pre-Hanukkah festival comes during a rising in antisemitism spreading across social media and antisemitic incidents across the country.

WATCH: What is antisemitism? Explaining anti-Jewish ideas and hate

Antisemitism is the world's oldest hatred, dating back thousands of years, yet many don't know how it functions or what it means.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a total of 2,717 antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism were reported to them in 2021. Preliminary data for 2022 shows the trend continuing.

Those incidents are also hitting close to home. Back in August, at least four different kinds of antisemitic fliers were found in a Raleigh neighborhood where there's a significant Jewish population.

"We're here to kindle a flame of morality, of the strength of kindness to the rest of the world. And, and believe me, for every antisemite, there's a thousand People that love and salute the Jewish people are so proud of what's taking place today around the world," explained Rabbi Bluming.

But there are still some people who are committed to spreading hate and targeting Jewish Institutions, Data from the Anti-Defamation League revealed antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish institutions jumped 61 percent from 2020 to 2021.

Leaders in the Jewish Community said addressing hate starts with education and open dialogue.

"Education is the silver bullet," said John DeMartino who serves as Director of Marketing and Communication with Jewish for Good. " The more information that we can put out there, the more that we can speak to misinformation, and the more that we are able to open up dialogues, I think, you know, a rising tide lifts all boats, and that's the name of the game."