The festival of lights is always bright, but sharing those lights outside isn’t as common as an inflatable jolly Santa Claus.
“The phenomenon of decorating the outside of your home for Hanukkah is relatively recent,” said Rabbi Nicole Luna.
Jewish people are a minority, and to make themselves seen, some families now are stepping up and out from the usual menorah in the window.
“I think it’s important to see themselves represented. We always go around and look at the lights. And it’s always Christmas. And we love it. And we love seeing the lights. But we wanted to be included,” said Lindsay Davis.
It’s a bold decision because inclusivity isn’t exactly in everyone’s heart or on everybody’s mind. There have been at least five antisemitic incidents in Southwest Florida this year.
This rash of hatred directed at Jewish people made Rabbi Nicole Luna wonder if her family would be safe displaying a menorah in front of their home. The answer, though, was a resounding yes.
“Part of the story of Hanukkah is being proud of our Jewish identity, of fighting for our beliefs, and of sharing the light and the joy of the holiday with others,” said Rabbi Luna.
Antisemitism was not a concern for Davis either. “I’m proud of who we are. I never shield it from my kids.”
Davis is teaching her two boys to love the sweetness around Judaism. She didn’t grow up with an inflatable menorah or with stars of David lining the driveway. She said she didn’t face the antisemitism that’s become prevalent today.
“I feel like we were so sheltered from it. Like, I didn’t really understand. I always knew antisemitism existed. But now it’s like really coming to the forefront, and it’s like, scary,” Davis said.
Davis said she wouldn’t let her kids grow up in fear. She’ll teach them that being Jewish is who they are, and she will let her holiday display grow inside and out.
Russell Bogan’s son is all grown up, but he knows the lights outside his home are sure to draw him home.
“It’s about celebrating with family, and it’s why they call it the festival of lights,” said Bogan.
Just like the story of Hanukkah in which Jewish soldiers fought for their temple, won,
and miraculously had enough oil to last for eight nights.
That test of strength has survived for generations.
“I’m not afraid to put out my decorations and to show people because I would hope I have enough faith in my friends and neighbors that they will accept me. Whoever I am,” Davis said.
That message of acceptance is universal, no matter your faith and no matter the season.