Explores the ways American Jews have reshaped Hanukkah traditions across the country
In New Orleans, Hanukkah means decorating your door with a menorah made of hominy grits. Latkes in Texas are seasoned with cilantro and cayenne pepper. Children in Cincinnati sing Hanukkah songs and eat oranges and ice cream. While each tradition springs from its own unique set of cultural references, what ties them together is that they all celebrate a holiday that is different in America than it is any place else. For the past two hundred years, American Jews have been transforming the ancient holiday of Hanukkah from a simple occasion into something grand. Each year, as they retell its story and enact its customs, they bring their ever-changing perspectives and desires to its celebration. Providing an attractive alternative to the Christian dominated December, rabbis and lay people alike have addressed contemporary hopes by fashioning an authentically Jewish festival that blossomed in their American world.
About the Author
Dianne Ashton is Professor of Religion Studies and former director of the American Studies program at Rowan University. She is the author of four books, including the first modern biography of the American Jewish education trailblazer, Rebecca Gratz (1997), and, with Ellen M. Umansky, the widely read Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality: A Sourcebook (revised 2009).She is currently editor of the scholarly journal, American Jewish History.