Hanukkah: Fiery Feminist Holiday or Women’s Consolation Prize?

Print, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 19th century, unknown artist.

Print, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes,” 19th century, unknown artist.

Since I was raised as a child in an Orthodox community, Hanukkah was the closest thing I had to a feminist holiday.

I grew up in Australia, where I celebrated Hanukkah at summer camp with a menorah lighting that rivalled Shabbat for its beauty and community. We sang “Hanerot Hallalu” with the traditional Hasidic melody and danced around the dining room with our arms around each other. We played variations of dreidel throughout the festival and doughnuts were currency in the camp black market.

One of the ways we learned of the story of Hanukkah was through children’s story tapes. Along with catchy tunes about spinning dreidels and lighting the candles from left to right, it featured the type of song that was rare in my diet of traditionally Orthodox Jewish children’s media—a homage to women, and their contribution to the Hanukkah story.

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