How do Jews in Bosnia-Herzegovina celebrate Hanukkah?

With evening prayer and lighting candles, Jewish people last night started to celebrate Hanukkah, the feast of light, which lasts for eight days.

“Hanukkah refers to an event that took place 167 years BC. At that time, Judah was ruled by the Greeks, who have tried to make violent hellenization – introduce Greek gods and forbid Jews to believe in one God. During the uprising, which lasted for three years, the Jews succeeded in expelling the Greeks from Jerusalem and the whole region,” says the general secretary of the Jewish community in Sarajevo, Elma Softic Kaunitz.

After burning the candle, they say a prayer of thanks to God for what he has done to Jewish ancestors at that time until the present day. After that, they all sing the song „Ma or cur“ by which, once again, they thank God for keeping them safe.

After lighting candles, the family gathers around the feast. There is a special place at the table with cakes and that is why this holiday is often called the sweet feast, said Softic Kaunitz. The most common specialties are sweet almond cakes called chaldikas, other types are pastry with nuts and halva which is formed in stars or moon shapes.

As part of the celebration, children receive “gelt” (the term for money) in each of the eight days, in order to learn to share it to charity. Recently, the tradition that children receive a small gift in each of the eight nights became popular as well.

“The game that includes candy comes down to that the player who wins gets all the candies. This game is played as a reminiscence that children, by playing the game, tried to distract the soldiers while the Maccabees were preparing to attack and return their temple from Greeks”, said the General Secretary of Jewish Community in Sarajevo.

In BiH, there was a custom that Sephardims prepare “Hanukkah halva” for this holiday, which is probably taken from the Bosnian population because, except at the stage of preparation, it is a typical “Bosnian halva”. In the world it is common to prepare “sufganijot”- donuts filled with various jams or chocolate.

And finally, let the light that Jewish people burn in the next few days- shine to everyone in BiH – Hanukkah lesimha!

According to the data published by the media in 2008, around 1,000 Jews live in BiH.

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