Minnesotans celebrate the start of Hanukkah

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People of Jewish faith in Minnesota are marking the first night of Hanukkah and community members explained the recent incidents of anti-Semitism are not darkening the festival of lights.

“I have some wonderful olive oil prepared cups that have olive oil and wicks all ready to go,” Dina Feller, St. Paul resident, said.

Feller is filling up her cart with everything kosher to kick off the first night of Hanukkah.

The Kosher Spot in St. Louis Park was packed with people as they shopped for the celebration.

“We just need a little bit of pure oil and we can spread so much light,” Feller said.

She explained light can overshadow hate.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise, according to the FBI.

In 2021, The Anti-defamation League recorded a 34 percent increase compared to 2020. It’s the highest number on record since the league started tracking the data 40 years ago.

The hate crimes are targeting a group that only makes up less than 3 percent of the American population.

“It’s definitely not easy and the only thing you could think about is to have a lot of compassion for people who are misled and misinformed,” Feller said.

Leaders in the Jewish community explained anti-Semitism has been a problem for thousands of years, but social media is amplifying it.

“It’s the reach of social media, the extent and the velocity to which evil, nefarious, ugly messages can be transmitted so quickly to so many people. That’s the difference that we see today,” Steve Hunegs, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas executive director, said.

Hunegs, said lighting the menorah this year should be a time for reflection.

“What we can do for Hanukkah is remember the times of the past, but the message for today, which is the all the work that we have to do together to protect yourselves to protect others and to strengthen our country together,” Hunegs said.

Despite the hate crimes, Hunegs said each candle illuminates a bright future for the Jewish community in this country.

“We should each light at least one menorah and everybody in their own little way can spread light and bring goodness and kindness to the world,” Feller said.