President’s December 2020 Scroll article

Happy Hanukkah, or is it Chanukah, or is it Chanukkah?

I thought wishing you a Happy Hanukkah would be easy.  Then I realized that there are many ways to spell the name of this holiday that begins with the lighting of the first candle on Thursday, December 10th.  There are so many different spellings because Hebrew does not use the Latin alphabet and because the Hebrew name for the holiday uses sounds not found in the Latin alphabet. A quick search of Google told me that “Hanukkah” is the most common English transliteration with 58 million listings followed by “Chanukah” with almost 8 million and “Chanukkah” with just over 739 thousand.  The Reform movement has also had some difficulty in deciding what the correct transliteration should be.  In a 2001 publication entitled URJ Transliteration Guidelines, they refer to the holiday as “Chanukah” while today on their website they spell it “Hanukkah”.

Whatever the spelling, Hanukkah is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.  It celebrates the victory of a small group of Jewish rebels known as the Maccabees over the armies of Syria and the subsequent liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem.

For many people, Hanukkah falls during the darkest, coldest season of the year.   This year, as we face the darkness of the season and dangers from COVID-19,  may the Festival of Lights bring light, joy, and warmth into our homes as we celebrate with candles, food, and family.  From my family to yours, Hanukkah sameach.

Paul B. Kanarek