Chabad Center for Jewish Life to hold Hanukkah celebrations in Lawrence

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The Chabad Center for Jewish Life will host two communitywide Hanukkah celebrations downtown next week, focusing on spreading love and light to counter darkness.

First on the agenda is the Amazing Olive Press Storytime from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the Lawrence Public Library. Kids ages 0-5 are welcome to join Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel in reading short stories, squeezing olive oil and making menorah wicks. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 21, people of all faiths are welcome to enjoy music, entertainment, hot drinks, gifts and food following the lighting of a 9-foot-tall menorah. The hourlong event will begin at 4:30 p.m. in front of the library. 

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, uses the menorah as a symbol of love triumphing over hate, and light driving out darkness.

This year, the darkness is prevalent: an article by the Wall Street Journal reported a tripling in instances of hostility toward Jewish college students on campuses, and the Anti-Defamation League counted more than 2,700 antisemitic incidents in 2021 — a 34% increase from 2020, and the highest number on record since 1979. Here in Lawrence, the school year began with an unknown group spreading flyers blaming Jewish people for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We live in a time where anybody has access to a global platform,” said Tiechtel, who serves as the co-director of Chabad Center.

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel

“Because the power of social media is so great, anybody can say whatever they want. The best way to counter such darkness is not by fighting hate with more hate, but by fighting hate with love.” 

Tiechtel has made the theme of this year’s Hanukkah celebration an expression of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The Klezmer band Tum Balalaika, led by a group of Ukrainian refugees, will perform Jewish folk music at the menorah lighting on Wednesday. 

Tiechtel said his decision to make the celebration focus on the crisis in Ukraine rather than the rise of antisemitism embodies Hanukkah’s message of standing up for what’s right, and defeating hatred by spreading love. 

“It’s all connected; the world is a small village,” Tiechtel said. “We’re trying to create an awareness that we have to stand up against the darkness. One of the ways we can do that is by expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” 

Tiechtel said everyone has a responsibility to spread love, positivity and acceptance. Standing up against hateful rhetoric and educating by sharing cultural traditions can help bring people together during a time when so many are divided. 

“Everyone in this city needs to step up and change the conversation,” Tiechtel said. “We all have to become ambassadors of love and acceptance.”

To learn more about the Chabad Center and stay up-to-date on upcoming events, visit this link

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Chloe Anderson (she/her) contributed to The Lawrence Times from August 2022 through May 2023. She is also published in Climbing magazine, Kansas Reflector and Sharp End Publishing. As a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, Chloe plans to continue her career in photography, rock climbing and writing somewhere out West.

You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Check out more of her work for the Times here.

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