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'Spreading tolerance': Cincinnati's Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah on Fountain Square

On the fourth night of the Jewish Festival of Lights, members speak about importance of acceptance
Menorah lighting Cincinnati Fountain Square 2022
Posted at 11:37 PM, Dec 21, 2022

CINCINNATI — On the fourth night of Hanukkah, Mayerson JCC hosted a Hanukkah celebration on Fountain Square Wednesday night. This event included an outdoor menorah lighting and a light show.

The Jewish community is celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights amid rising antisemitism. The Anti-Defamation League's latest audit for 2021 shows antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high of 2,717 in the United States. It averages out to more than seven incidents a day and a 34% increase since 2020.

The Anti-Defamation League tracks incidents of assaults, harassment and vandalism. It counted 927 incidents in 2012, to 2,717 in 2021, more than a 193% increase between those two years.

"That's one of the reasons we came out tonight to feel a sense of community here in Cincinnati," said Jordana Greenberg. "It's something that we've all been told about and taught about our entire lives, so we are prepared in a sense to fight back spiritually and other ways if we need to."

"There's nothing to be ashamed of anything and nobody is ashamed, thank God, so we can do it all on the street," said Rabbi Sholom Kalmanson, Chabad of Southern Ohio.

Wednesday's celebration is in the same place that was once a racial, ideological and legal battleground where the Jewish community fought to have a menorah on public display. It's a battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"That means I succeeded in my battle," Kalmanson said. "Not only did they fight me, not only did they not want it, but now they're doing it themselves too."

"It's really spreading tolerance, it's our religion and other peoples as well," said Devra Salder, Mayerson JCC. "We're a part of this city, we're a part of this country and culture and I think to be able to show that Judaism is accepted and that we can freely celebrate is a wonderful thing."