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First day of Hanukkah celebrated at the Montana Capitol

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 20:32:11-05

HELENA — Montanans of the Jewish faith and heritage, as well as leaders from throughout the state, gathered in the capitol to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah.

December 7 marks the first day of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. Each night a new candle is added to the Menorah, one for each day of the eight-day festival.

Rabbis and community leaders gathered in the capitol rotunda at noon on Thursday in order to celebrate. Mayor Wilmot Collins of Helena spoke to the crowd as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor could not be in attendance.

Collins told MTN that celebrating a holiday like Hanukkah in the public space of the capitol can create a sense of unity among all people.

“When we come together in a commonplace that we all recognize as for all of us, it brings that sense of unity. And I think that's what we should be emphasizing at this time,” says Collins.

During the celebration, Rabbis from throughout the state spoke to the 60 or so folks gathered. Rabbi Mark Kula of Har Shalom in Missoula was one of those speakers. Anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic incidents have been on the rise since the incidents on October 7, and Rabbi Kula says hate is not the answer.

“The rise of anti-Semitism, of anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions is deplorable. It pains me so much to see hatred and to see the violence and to see the infliction of bigotry against neighbors. We’re all citizens of this land. I believe any all of us want good. And we have to replace that hate with dialogue, with conversation, with respect, and to bring peace,” says Kula.