Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky: Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America

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Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America

Source: Time, 12-20-11

Hanukkah lacks the restrictions of holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur. That, combined with secular culture in the U.S., has made it so popular
Getty Images

Getty Images

Even though listed officially as a “minor” Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has turned into the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the U.S. There’s nothing minor about Hanukkah anymore.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute in New York City, says the notion of calling Hanukkah “minor” really presents a misnomer and it is only a term used when discussing holidays that impart major restrictions on people’s behavior.

Major holidays include Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and require restrictions on eating and other behavior, giving them titles of major holidays. But just because Hanukkah offers a festival void of the restrictions, it doesn’t make it any less important, Olitzky says. “Outside of the technical framework of Jewish law, Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday,” he says. “We have really done ourselves a disservice by using the term minor.”

(LIST: Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hanukkah)

Hanukkah means rededication, and it and offers Jews a reminder of three distinct points regarding light, freedom and dedication. The lack of strict rules make the holiday easy — and fun — to celebrate, which may be why research now shows Hanukkah is more celebrated — whether through the lighting of candles, gift giving, attending a party or a full celebration of the festival in Jewish practice — than even Passover…. READ MORE

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