Study: Nearly All Israeli Jews Celebrate Chanukah

A menorah crafted by Israeli metal sculptor Yaron Bob is seen at his studio in Yated, southern Israel. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

There is almost no Israeli Jew who does not light Chanukah lights with candles or oil, at least part of the time. That is the conclusion of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), an independent professional policy planning think tank that monitors issues in Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora. The study found that nearly three-quarters of all Israeli Jews light Chanukah candles all eight nights of the holiday, while the rest light them at least four out of Chanukah’s eight nights.

Those who light candles (or oil menoros) every night included substantial numbers of all groups, including those who defined themselves as “completely secular.” According to the study, 97 percent of those defining themselves as “religious” lit candles every night, as did 86 percent of “traditional” Jews, and 71 percent of “seculars who are a bit traditional.” The only group for whom most of its members light Chanukah candles “most nights” are those who identify as “completely secular.” Out of this group, which constitutes a little more than a quarter of Israeli Jews (28 percent) as defined by them, there is a slightly larger percentage of those who light Chanukah candles “some nights” (44 percent) than those who light Chanukah candles “every night” (40 percent), the JPPI study said.

The study also compared Chanukah practices in Israel with those in the United States. A total of 38 percent of Israeli Jews consider Chanukah to be an “important” holiday, with Pesach, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos “rating” higher; among American Jews, more than two-thirds of American Jews (68 percent) consider Chanukah to be “one of the three most important holidays,” most likely, the study said, due its proximity to the major non-Jewish celebrations (Thanksgiving, and other events) of the season. With that, however, while three out of four Israeli Jews light Chanukah candles “every night,” less than two out of three American Jews do so (60 percent). This gap in holiday observance exists almost all of the holidays. For almost all Jewish practices checked, the data show that Israeli Jews partake in more Jewish traditions than American Jews, the study said.