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Cincinnati's drive-through Hanukkah light experience returns

inflatable bear with menorah, dreidel, kippah
Tana Weingartner
The inflatable Hanukkah bear is a big hit with youngsters at the Rockwern Academy lights display.

A unique concept that drew national attention last year is returning to the Tri-State. Rockwern Academy will again transform its parking lot into a Hanukkah wonderland with the drive-through "Let it Glow" lights display.

Head of School Rabbi Laura Baum says people appreciated a way to celebrate Hanukkah publicly.

"So often there are Christmas lights and members of the Jewish community may not have their own way of celebrating Hanukkah in that way," Baum says. "It was really wonderful for our families with children to have an opportunity to see their holiday on display."

Finding enough Hanukkah decorations to outfit an entire light display is tricky, even as they enter their second year.

"It's a really fun challenge to try to find commercial items to celebrate Hanukkah," Baum says with a laugh. "It's definitely a year-round hobby of mine."

Organizers work with what they can find and then improvise with items made by students and decorations that play on themes of light, she says.

Turnout was good last year, and they're expecting even more people this year.

Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but still, Baum says, it's nice to have an event that highlights Jewish culture.

"So many people were excited to have a new way of celebrating Hanukkah," she says. "Last year, we heard from people who loved seeing a way in the community to publicly celebrate Hanukkah. ... I think it was mostly just really fun for people."

In a season marked dramatically by twinkling lights, she notes Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights. Hanukkah marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the second century BCE after Judah and the Maccabees defeated and drove out the Greek army. When they went to light the temple's menorah, there was only enough oil for one night. However, the oil miraculously lasted eight days. Jews around the world celebrate the event by lighting candles in menorahs each night.

The eight-day holiday begins this year on the evening of Dec. 18 and lasts through Dec. 26. The drive-through runs Dec. 18 - 22 and Dec. 24 from 6-8 p.m.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.