Any Hebrew school teacher will tell you that the number one favorite Jewish holiday named by American Jewish students is Hanukkah (Hanukkah, Chanuka, Hanukah, however you spell it!). This eight-day festival, centered around bringing light into darkness, both metaphorically and physically, is probably the best known and one of the most celebrated events in the cycle of Jewish holidays.
Timing of the Holiday While Hanukkah falls on the same day every year on the Hebrew calendar — the 25th day of the month of Kislev — on the Roman calendar, the holiday can begin anywhere from the end of November to the end of December. This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 18th. Candles are lit for eight consecutive nights, with the last candle being lit on Sunday night, December 25th. The holiday officially ends Monday evening, December 26th, at sundown.
Hanukkah is called the “Festival of Lights”. We celebrate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE. The word, “Hanukkah” means “dedication”. The story of Hanukkah is not written about in the Bible; it comes from the books of the Maccabees.
In the year 168 BCE, Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, defeated Egypt in war. He was forced to withdraw by Rome. He then crossed into the Land of Israel where he tried to Hellenize the Israelites. Among the destructive actions he took was the destruction of the Holy Temple. The Jewish warriors banded together to fight Antiochus. They were led by Judah Maccabee, the son of Mattathias. The Maccabees were severely outnumbered and under-supplied. They had to rely on their knowledge of the land when fighting their opponents. It took three years to drive the Syrian invaders out of their land. When the Maccabees took back the Holy Temple, they saw that the lamp that was to continuously burn, the ner tamid, eternal light, was no longer burning. They could only find enough oil to keep the lamp lit for one day. The miracle? The oil that should have only burned for one day lasted for eight days...long enough for them to get more oil. Given that the oil lasted for eight days, we now celebrate the holiday for eight days.
Celebrating Hanukkah Today Hanukkah offers something for everyone. Its story is one of superhero-like heroism. The Maccabees, a rag-tag band of Jewish rebels led by Judah and his brothers, take on the mighty Syrian-Greek army, defeat them in a long war and recapture the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
We light the candles nightly on Hanukkah. The first night, we recite 3 brachot (blessings). All the following nights, we just say the first two.
Bah-rooch ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm ah-sher ki-deh-shah-noo beh-mitzvoh-tahv veh-tzee-vah-noo leh-hahd-lik nayr shel chanoo-kah
Blessed are You, Lord our G‐d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.
Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm sheh-ah-sah nee-sim lah-ah-vohtay-noo bah-yah-mim hah-haym biz-mahn hah-zeh
Blessed are You, Lord our G‐d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm sheh-heh-kheh-yah-noo veh-keemah-noo ve-hig-ee-yah-noo liz-mahn hah-zeh
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
WHEN WE EMPOWER WOMEN, THEY CAN HEAL THE WORLD
Hadassah is the largest women’s Zionist organization in the United States, with nearly 300,000 members, Associates, and supporters – found across every congressional district. We advocate for a robust legislative agenda that puts our values into action.
Hadassah women have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to grow Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) from a small medical delegation into two world-renowned academic research hospitals in Jerusalem with a diverse staff that treats over one million patients per year. We are proud that Israel’s Health Ministry recently declared HMO’s hospitals as the best major and small hospitals in the country.
HMO maintains partnerships around the world and sendsmedical delegations to assist in humanitarian disasters, most recently with mission teams sent to the Ukrainian-Polish border.
HMO receives USAID funding – through the American Schools and Hospital Abroad (ASHA) and Ocean Freight Reimbursement programs – to purchase and import American medical equipment and products.
Through our Influentials-to-Israel program, Hadassah invites political, business, entertainment and other leaders to witness our medical innovations and examples of shared society first-hand.
Hadassah proudly advocated for specific actions to keep communities safe from hate crimes and physical or verbal abuse – whether in-person or on tech platforms. Building a healthier and more tolerant future requires stopping antisemitism from taking root in new generations. The solution is education. Students, no matter where they’re taught, should be protected from curricula of hate.
Officials from the UN and Palestinian Authority must be held accountable for incorporating hatred, antisemitism and glorification of violence in schools. The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act (H.R. 2374 | S. 3209), UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 4721 | S. 2479) and a related House State & Foreign Operations Appropriations bill would create greater accountability to protect Palestinian children, fight antisemitism and improve pathways toward peace.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism has been adopted by governments and organizations around the world and has long-standing bipartisan support in the US. We support efforts to codify US adoption and usage of the definition across all agencies and departments.
WOMEN’S HEALTH EQUITY
Hadassah advocates for everyone to have the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Women and men often present different symptoms, or incidence rates, for the same diseases and react differently to certain drugs, medical devices and treatments. Supporting the medical community and health agencies in gathering information, investing in research and public education, and promoting policy action to improve treatment and alleviate risks are all essential for achieving better health outcomes.
Women’s health research resolution H.Res. 1129 would raise awareness about women’s health disparities and accelerate women’s health research as a critical issue for our economy and workforce, as well as the health and well-being of all people.
Hadassah continues to support efforts to enhance understanding of COVID-19 and Long COVID. The Ensuring Understanding of COVID–19 to Protect Public Health Act (S. 176) would mandate a longitudinal 10-year study by the NIH in consultation with the CDC on short and long-term health impacts of COVID–19 for a diverse range of study participants based on demographic groups and severity of infection.
Women’s cardiovascular health resolution H.Res. 88 identifies women's heart health as an important is-sue and leading cause of death in women. It supports gender-specific health research, prevention and treatment and highlights the need for expanded awareness and education efforts around women’s unique symptoms and risk factors for heart disease.
After a heart attack, women have a 20 percent higher risk of heart failure or death and are 50 percent more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis as compared to men. Hadassah Medical Organization’s Heart Institute was ranked among the top 200 of the World’s Best Hospitals in Cardiology by Newsweek and the Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center for Women is a leader in promoting women’s heart health, heart disease prevention, health equity and well-being.