December 12 marks the start of Hanukkah—the eight day festival of lights—in Jewish communities around the world. Commemorating the Jewish fight to gain religious freedom over the Syrian capture of a temple 2000 years ago, what was aimed to be a one-day menorah lighting lasted eight days. Each night a candle is lit to commemorate the miracle of the original menorah.
We’ve told you about some of the lesser known Jewish communities in Latin America, but you might not realize that Latinos right here in the US are also kicking off Hanukkah with a bang. As the Jewish and Latin American communities in larger cities become further intertwined, we’re starting to see a fusion of cultures with over the top Hanukkah celebrations that might be confused with a Christmas holiday gathering in Latin America. Here’s how different parts of the US are putting a Latin twist of the eight day festival.
Los Angeles has one of the longest running traditions of celebrating Hanukkah Latin American style. The Jewish Community Center’s Club Hebreo Latino has been selling out their Hanukkah events since 1993. By keeping Jewish religious customs strong and combining both the Spanish language with traditional Latin American food and music offerings, the organization caters to Jewish Latin Americans in ways that more mainstream Jewish organizations do not. Like the former executive director Moises Paz (and Latino Jew himself) from the Costa Mesa Jewish Community Center states, members appreciate the ability to “meet together to be able to express our Jewish identity in our mother tongues.”
And if you’re having trouble imagining exactly what kinds of food you might find in L.A. to celebrate the holiday, you can experience it year round at Takosher—the food truck offering up fusion tacos with brisket and latke fillings to honor the founders’ Jewish and Mexican roots.