While there are plenty of places known to celebrate Christmas in the South, we can’t forget about one of the other major holidays during the season: Hanukkah. The celebration in December honors the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
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The city of Atlanta has a large Jewish population dating back to the 1800s. The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, better known as The Temple, was established in 1860. It was later bombed in 1958 by white supremacists but was later restored. The Temple continues to host festivities including menorah lightings and live music.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is one of the oldest cities in America and its Jewish population dates back to the 1800s. In fact, the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue was built in 1749 and is one of the oldest synagogues in the country still in use. Reform Judaism in America also started here.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim also hosts Hanukkah celebrations. Chanukah in the Square is an annual event in Marion Square, hosted by Holocaust survivors with live music and storytelling.
The Jewish community in the modern-day college town of Charlottesville was established in the 1840s. The Levy family, one of the most notable of the community, was responsible for saving Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Congregation Beth Israel dates back to 1882 and is the center of Hanukkah festivities in town. They host a candle lighting as one of their events. Chabad at the University of Virginia also hosts programming.
Miami, Florida has a thriving Jewish community, first settling in this part of the state in 1896. One family in the community, the Weiss family, went on to open one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, Joe’s Stone Crab, in 1913.
B’nai Zion, later called Beth David, was founded in 1913 as the first congregation in the county. Beth Jacob was the first congregation founded in Miami Beach in 1927. Their synagogue is now the Jewish Museum of Florida.
Chabad House of Miami Beach hosts the annual lighting of their menorah made of shells, pictured above. The Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center hosts performances for families. Beth David hosts candle lighting and meals.
Savannah is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the country. A group of settlers arrived in 1733 when Georgia was still a colony.
Congregation Mickve Israel is one of the oldest synagogues in the country, dating back to 1735. They welcome the public to their celebrations and also have a museum about the Jewish community of the city. Chabad of Savannah also lights a giant menorah in Ellis Square.
Washington DC‘s Jewish community dates back to the 18th century and increased in the years following the Civil War and is now the third-largest in the country.
The Washington Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1852 and continues to host Hanukkah programs. Ohev Sholom, The National Synagogue, has speakers and candle lightings. The National Menorah Lighting, pictured, is the biggest Hanukkah event in the city.
Wilmington, North Carolina
The first Jewish person to arrive in North Carolina came in 1585 to the Roanoke colony. The first Jewish congregation was established in Wilmington in 1852.
Chabad of Wilmington hosts events for Hanukkah like the lighting of the menorah in Riverfront Park, performances, and food like latkes and jelly doughnuts.
What’s your favorite Southern Hanukkah tradition?