Utahns Celebrate Hanukkah At Capitol

Dec 28, 2016

This holiday season, you may have been busy with Christmas and now you’re probably getting ready for New Year's Eve. But this is also a week of Hanukkah celebrations. 

Inside the Capitol building Rotunda in downtown Salt Lake City, around 150 people mingle, snacking on fried latkes and jelly donuts as a violin and guitar duo play onstage. After speeches from Jewish leaders and Governor Herbert, and the lighting of the menorah, I meet Rabbi Avremi Zippel, the Program Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah.

"The Jewish community in Salt Lake City is quite diverse. A lot of people don’t know it’s quite old. It’s been settled for about 120 years," Zippel says. 

Both Avremi and his father Benny Zippel are Rabbis at the Chabad, Utah’s branch of the world-wide Jewish outreach movement. Zippel estimates there are 3,500 Jews in Salt Lake City. For the past decade, a fraction of them have gathered for this menorah lighting with Utah politicians. First it was held at the Governor’s mansion when John Huntsman Jr. was in office. After it got too large it moved to the Capitol building.

"To have Hanukkah recognized at the highest level of state possible is a tremendous privilege we feel. To have the Governor attend this event on a yearly basis, for 10 years in a row, and we hope for many, many more, we consider a tremendous honor," Zippel says. 

Besides the capitol, a menorah lighting will also take place at Thursday’s Utah Jazz game.

"They’re lit in very public places, it’s meant to be a public display of our faith and of our belief. And that is how Hanukkah is celebrated," he says. 

Hanukkah ends this Sunday on New Year’s Day. More community events can be found on the website of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah.