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Windsor Hanukkah celebrations provide respite from grief, turmoil

Hazzan Devorah Fick lights the first candle on the menorah inside Beth El synagogue in Windsor, Ont. on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News Windsor) Hazzan Devorah Fick lights the first candle on the menorah inside Beth El synagogue in Windsor, Ont. on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News Windsor)
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Around the world millions of menorahs were lit Thursday evening, as the Jewish community marked the first night of Hanukkah.

Celebrations for the “festival of lights” held in Windsor, too, though local spiritual leaders say there are conflicting emotions as the conflict in the Middle-East rages on.

“I think that this year we're struggling a little bit internally,” said Hazzan Devorah Fick, who leads Congregation Beth El in the city.

“We're saying, how can we celebrate this miracle and be joyful when there is so much hurt going on in the world and in Israel and in Gaza. How are we to react?”

Hazzan Fick said the typically joyous celebration has a faint cloud cast over it this year – blamed on both the turmoil of war in Israel and Gaza as well as a documented rise in anti-Semitism in cities across Canada.

“There’s a little bit of fear,” she said.

“Here in Windsor, there hasn’t been any violence against the Jewish community and so I really encourage our community here in Windsor to embrace that.”

The Hazzan said locals are encouraged not to import the conflict of the Israel-Hamas war to our region – and to be kind to one another.

She encourages those of all faiths to consider looking into Hanukkah – there’s a party set for Saturday at Beth El, where lots of latkes will be served.

Hazzan Fick just asks that anyone interested reach out in advance so they know they have space for them.

On Sunday, Windsor’s tallest menorah will be constructed and lit at Devonshire Mall.

The six-foot display will start going up at 4 p.m., scheduled for lighting at 5 p.m.

“There is nothing about Hanukkah that is only for the Jewish community,” Hazzan Fick said.

She added that the festival provides a great opportunity for the world to come together amidst the turmoil.

“The festival of lights celebrates a miracle,” said the Hazzan.

“The idea of lights burning for eight nights instead of one, that’s a miracle. And the idea that we can actually overcome hate with love, that is also a miracle.” 

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