‘Light in darkness’: Jewish community adapts for pandemic-hit Hanukkah

Rabbi Mendy Korer, co-CEO at Chabad Islington, talking on stage at a previous Islington menorah lighting Credit: Chabad Islington

The coronavirus pandemic means Hanukkah celebrations will look very different this year but the message behind the Jewish festival remains “exactly the same”, a rabbi has said.

Hanukkah – known as the festival of lights – is an eight-day celebration involving food, prayer and the lighting of a menorah.

This year it runs from December 10-18.

Usually the celebrations involve gatherings with family friends, but people such as Rabbi Mendy Korer – co-chief executive at Chabad Islington in north London – have been forced to change their plans this year to accommodate social distancing.

“On a communal level, we’re usually organising the big festival on Islington Green,” he said.

“We (would) have 700-odd people there every year with a programme, activities, crafts, challenges, musical entertainment. I can’t do any of that.”

Rabbi Korer said he had been working “very closely” with the council and local health teams to organise a Covid-friendly menorah lighting with “restricted, limited numbers, non-amplified sounds and no installations”.

Hanukkah 'care package', designed to help people celebrate at home with challenges and activities Credit: Chabad Islington

To avoid overcrowding, attendees of this menorah lighting will only be given the address once their place is reserved, while face masks are a condition of entry.

The celebration will include less entertainment than in previous years, as well as fewer people and no stage, although singing and food will remain a part of the event.