Is Hannukah a compulsory vacation

Corona pandemic: Jewish Festival of Lights: Hanukkah will be so different this year

Alexander Mazo usually sees his whole family on Hanukkah: the two grown children, the grandchildren. But this December he spends the Jewish Festival of Lights mainly with his wife. He's not really on vacation either: they want to renovate the building of the community on Halderstrasse in Augsburg. Mazo is president of the Israelite religious community in Swabia-Augsburg. This year, Hanukkah will be different for the members as well as for all Jews.

The reason is the corona pandemic. Church services are canceled, families have to forego larger gatherings. Since Hanukkah takes place from December 10th to 18th this year, only two households and a maximum of five people are allowed to meet. The federal and state governments decided on Wednesday and tightened the previous measures. The rules are relaxed for Christmas: Ten people from several households are allowed to meet. An exception. Do Jews feel disadvantaged compared to Christians?

Jews can celebrate Hanukkah even if they are no exception

"No," says Alexander Mazo. "We accept the rules." Let it be good the way it is, Mazo is not disappointed. "A hard law, but a law," he adds, quoting a Latin proverb. There is still scope for families to meet and celebrate Hanukkah. "But you have to weigh yourself what risk you are taking."

This year, Muslims were already suffering from the corona restrictions. Mosques were closed in the spring during Ramadan. This shows how much society is struggling with the corona pandemic. But that people also find new ways to celebrate festivals. The Jewish community of Swabia-Augsburg, for example, sends congratulations on Hanukkah by email and brings gifts.

Hanukkah is supposed to bring light into the dark season

The date for the festival of lights varies by a few days every year. But it always falls on the 25th Kislew, the ninth month in the Jewish religious calendar and is supposed to bring light into the darkness. Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights because a candlestick, Hanukkah, is lit during the entire festival. Not all candles are lit at the same time. According to the custom, a candle is lit every day - after sunset.

The Jewish community of Swabia-Augsburg is already pandemic-tested. Many services were held online this year. But that is not the same for Alexander Mazo, face-to-face services created a completely different atmosphere. "Those are different feelings," says Mazo. He is 65 years old and has been president of the ward since April 2005. So even longer than Angela Merkel is Federal Chancellor. "But I'm not as important as they are," says Mazo.

Hanukkah: The nine days in December are a break from everyday life for Mazo

A Hanukkah festival as Jews know it has to wait, according to Mazo. Nevertheless: it has to take place somehow. "You can't take it off the calendar." The nine days of Hanukkah in December usually mean a break from everyday life for Alexander Mazo. It's smaller this year. Although 2020 is unexpectedly tough. "People are focused on managing the pandemic." It is important to Mazo that everyone feels safe. And this year has shown that there are no limits. At least not for a virus.

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