Hanukkah Among American-Jews' Favorite Jewish Holiday

The whole community of Yisrael shall offer it. Exodus 12:47 (The Israel Bible™)

It takes less time to prepare than Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Succot); is happier than Rosh Hashana; and it certainly doesn’t leave you hungry like Yom Kippur.

It’s Hanukkah, and a new survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) shows that the winter holiday’s customers are especially popular among the Jews of Israel.

Although they’re fattening, sufganiyot (doughnuts) are eaten by 79% of Israeli Jews (and probably non-Jews as well) during the holiday; consider the calorie intake of the average Israeli, who sees sufganiyot in bake shops already six weeks before Hanukkah…

A total of 63% give Hanukkah “gelt” (money or gifts);

42% report going to a Hanukkah performance; and 73% light the menorah (eight-cupped candle or oil candelabrum) for the full eight days of the holiday.

The survey is part of an extensive research project on Israeli Judaism that has already resulted in the publication of a new book based on the research called #IsraeliJudaism, a portrait of a cultural revolution published by the Dvir Publishing House. The JPPI (established by the Jewish Agency for Israel) is a think tank located in Jerusalem. Through strategic thinking and long-term action-oriented policy planning, JPPI focuses its efforts on ensuring the thriving of the Jewish people and the Jewish civilization.
 
One in four Israeli Jews lights Hanukkah candles some nights, but, not all eight nights.  Almost three out of four Israeli Jews (73%) claim they light the menorah) for the full eight days of Hanukkah.


 
In most of the Israeli groups, there is a clear majority that lights candles every night of Hanukkah, they include the self-described “religious” (97%), “traditional” (86%) and “seculars who are a bit traditional” (71%).
 
The only group for whom most of its members light Hanukkah candles “most nights” are those who identify as “completely secular.” Out of this group, which constitutes 28% of Israeli Jews, there is a slightly larger percentage of those who light Hanukkah candles “some nights” (44%) than those who light Hanukkah candles “every night” (40%).
 
Most Israeli Jews partake in several Hanukkah activities, such as eating sufganiyot and latkes (potato pancakes) (79%) and giving Hanukkah gelt (64%; this practice is especially common among the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have a large number of children, on average (89%).  A significant percentage of Israeli Jews (42%) report attending one of Hanukkah’s special shows, such as the Festigal (an Israeli Hanukkah musical), a festival or a play.
 
The new book by Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs draws an interesting comparison between American Jews – the largest Jewish community outside of Israel – and Israeli Jews. This comparison shows that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be a much more important holiday than Israeli Jews consider it to be. More than two-thirds of American Jews (68%) consider Hanukkah to be “one of the three most important holidays” – probably because of its proximity to Christmas – compared to about a third of Israeli Jews (38%).
 
However, the fact that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be an extremely important holiday does not translate to a high percentage of participation in Hanukkah traditions.
 
While three out of four Israeli Jews light Hanukkah candles “every night,” fewer than two out of three American Jews do so (60%). This gap in holiday observance exists for many holidays. For almost all Jewish practices checked, the data show that Israeli Jews partake in significantly more Jewish traditions than American Jews.

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