Bulgaria: Small Jewish community to celebrate Hanukkah

Written by on December 12, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria: Small Jewish community to celebrate Hanukkah

The Bulgarian Jewish community was getting ready for Hanukkah on Tuesday. That holiday starts at sundown today and lasts for eight days. By celebrating Hanukkah, Jews commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The opportunity for celebrating Jewish holidays like this one is not taken for granted in Europe, including in Bulgaria. In communist times, the regime did not tolerate religious activity.

After decades of fascism and communism, most of the Bulgarian Jews who stayed in the country did not follow customs of this kind anymore. Many Jews who were born in those difficult periods only learned about Jewish traditions after 1989.

Since the collapse of communism, the traditions and holidays have finally resurfaced. At Sofia’s synagogue, one big Hanukkah event takes place every year. The President of Bulgaria is usually part of it.

At home, believers among the Jews light their Hanukkah candles, eat oil-based foods such as doughnuts or latkes, while singing and praying. Secular Jews might light candles too, while skipping the prayer part.

Many Jews, including the ones in so-called mixed marriages, also celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. They have gotten used to it. Besides: While Christmas is one of the two most important holidays for Christians, Hanukkah is not even a ‘high holiday’ in Judaism.

With up to 5,000 members, the Jewish community in Bulgaria is a rather small minority, but a very active one. The organisation for the Bulgarian Jews, Shalom, and its partners in the country and abroad offer children’s holiday camps, educational camps for youngsters, cultural events and dinners, including Hanukkah dinners, one of which will take place tonight.

They also run a Jewish kindergarten and they are in the process of launching a large educational project in Sofia.

The number of Jewish expatriates in Bulgaria is low, but there are some, including in the community of foreign diplomats. Part of the staff of this publication is Jewish too.

Shalom just wished all members and friends peace and prosperity for the holiday season in Bulgaria and all over the world, along with a happy Hanukkah.

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