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Study of American, Israeli Jews shows differences in Hanukkah observance

In America, just 60 percent of Jews light the menorah for the whole eight days of the holiday; in Israel, 73 percent do.

Young Israelis light candles for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at a bar in Tel Aviv on Dec. 8, 2015.  Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Young Israelis light candles for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at a bar in Tel Aviv on Dec. 8, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

A new study reveals that Hanukkah holds different levels of importance to Israeli Jews than American Jews, and highlights disparities in participation between Jews in the two countries.

According to the newest Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) report, while just 38 percent of Israeli Jews consider Hanukkah to be “one of the three most important holidays” on the Jewish calendar, 73 percent say they light a menorah for all eight nights—97 percent of people who call themselves “religious,” 86 percent of those who say they are “traditional,” and 71 percent of those who consider themselves “secular, but a little traditional.”

Among the 28 percent of Israelis who call themselves “completely secular,” 44 percent still light candles on some night, while 40 percent say they still light the candles all eight nights.

After the lights are lit, 64 percent distribute Hanukkah gifts and money, and 79 percent eat traditional Hanukkah foods like sufganiyot (doughnuts) or latkes (potato pancakes).

In America, however, 68 percent say Hanukkah is one of the most important Jewish holidays, but just 60 percent light the menorah for the whole eight days of celebration.

Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs, in a new book called #IsraeliJudaism: A Portrait of a Cultural Revolution, primarily studied Israeli practices and surveyed 3000 Israeli Jews for the report.

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