Hanukkah Gifts and Celebrations In Israel, Manipur, and Mizoram
(December 29) Hanukkah, traditionally a time for gift-giving, was just that last week for Degel Menashe’s twenty-one 2022-2023 academic and vocational scholarship winners. At a ceremony hosted, as it was last year, by the municipality of Ramla, the award winners were presented with their checks by Mayor Michael Vidal and, after he had to leave due to schedule constraints, by Eyal Nitzani, Deputy Director of the Israeli Students Association, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Absorption and Integration.
Some of the award winners, whose fields of study ranged from microbiology and computer programming to nursing and administration, were accompanied by their families, so that about sixty people attended the ceremony, during which the fifth candle of Hanukkah was lit. The event was emceed by Runia Lunkhel and featured several speakers, including Degel Menashe board member Yossi Dahan.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, the B’nei Menashe communities of northeast India marked the holiday
with festivities, too. In Manipur, the B’nei Menashe Council, assisted by its women’s and youth divisions, sponsored a two-day Hanukkah Conference in Churachandpur. Some 500 men, women, and children came from all over the state to take part in the candle lighting, singing, lessons, and competitions in music, art, and Jewish knowledge. A high point of the celebration was the participation of seven guests from Israel, young backpackers who came to spend the holiday with the B’nei Menashe and ended up teaching them a bit of Hebrew and some Israeli songs.
In Mizoram’s capital of Aizawl, Hanukkah was celebrated by a weeklong Limud Torah or Torah Study program organized by the B’nei Menashe Council and Degel Menashe. The event kicked off with a study session on Sunday, December 18 at the city’s Shalom Tzion Synagogue. Following Minchah prayers, Hanukkah candles were lit for the first night, after which those gathered after which those gathered sat down to a dinner of traditional Hanukkah foods, such as rasgulla, a milk-based sweet once popular with the now-dwindled Jewish community of Calcutta, and chhangban, a B’nei Menashe fried sticky rice dish.
A highlight of the celebrations occurred mid-week, on Wednesday, December 21, when the community went picnicking in northern Aizawl. The day-long excursion began with the reading of Psalms and group singing, while later in the day, after the fourth Hanukkah candle was lit, a communal feast was held. On Shabbat, the participants sat down to a lavish Kiddush spread following the mornings prayers and then attended another study session. The next day, Sunday, December 25, the eighth and last candle was lit as soon as the stars came out in the night sky and the everyone sat down to enjoy a last meal of chhangban.