A Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights: Making History on Sunday, Nov. 18

Alan Blitz
Updated 10/25/2018 7:07 AM

125 years ago, Swami Vivekananda made history with his groundbreaking speech to the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He introduced Hinduism to America and called for religious tolerance and an end to fanaticism.

On Sunday, November 18, 2018, at 6 PM, the Chicago area will again be the epicenter of an historic event: the first ever Hindu-Jewish Festival of Lights at Temple Beth El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook.


The "Festival of Lights" is being planned to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali and the Jewish festival of Hannukah; both occur at the same time of year and have similar themes.

Sponsored by StandWithUs, The Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, Temple Beth El, VHPA, Shir Hadash, Sewa International, and TV Asia, "Festival of Lights" is a fitting tribute to the spirit of Swami Vivekananda's belief in the respect for and understanding of other religions.

It will feature Samson "Mahatma Moses" Koletar, the world's only Indian Jewish stand-up comedian, Indian and Israeli dance lessons, and desserts from both cultures. The consulate generals of both Israel and India have agreed to participate.

The modern celebration unites two ancient peoples. Deepavali or Diwali is said to have originated in Ayodhya more than 7000 years ago when Lord Ram returned after 14 years of exile, along with Mother Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. People clean and decorate their houses during Diwali, wear new clothes, have fireworks, and distribute sweets.

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For the Jewish people, the Festival of Lights or Channukah / Hannukah is equally ancient, commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BCE) against the Greek Seleucid Empire, which desecrated the holy temple in Jerusalem and tried to force the Jews to accept the panoply of Greek gods.

Despite being terribly outnumbered, the Jews defeated the enemy and rededicated the temple to worship. They found only enough oil to light the temple for one day, but the light miraculously lasted 8 days. Today, Jews light an 8-pronged Menorah for 8 nights to celebrate the miracle.

Peggy Shapiro, Midwest Executive Director of StandWithUs, sees the event as a celebration of two peoples, both of whom honor ancient ties, and cherish common values. "Both festivals signify the emergence of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

Hindus and Jews are celebrating together, not only because their two festivals occur at the same time on the calendar, but also because they want to shed some light together on the value of tolerance, understanding and respect for other religions."

For tickets, go to https://www.standwithus.com/hindujewishfol

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