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Iowa's Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah amidst rising antisemitism

The Anti-Defamation League recorded an all-time record of 2,717 antisemitic incidents in 2021.

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Hanukkah's origins date back thousands of years, when ancient Jews living in Syria were prevented from practicing their faith. 

Jewish followers lit a menorah in a temple they'd reclaimed from the Syrians, lighting a menorah on the altar. 

"The idea is that when we fight and hold our ground for what we believe, it turns the world that direction," said Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, Co-Director of Lubavitch of Iowa.

And as the story goes, that menorah miraculously stayed lit for eight whole days, inspiring the tradition that is still observed today. 

In Des Moines, Iowa's Jewish community gathered at Maccabee's Kosher Deli over the weekend to light the first candle on a towering menorah, joined by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

"We begin the celebration to really celebrate the gift of good over evil, light over darkness, but most importantly, the amazing gift of hope," Reynolds told the crowd.

But that hope might seem a bit harder to muster for many. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the United States had a record-high number of antisemitic incidents in 2021, with 2022 on a similar pace.

In one example, rapper Ye posted a tweet claiming he would go "death con 3 on Jewish people." 

And in Iowa, Coralville residents found flyers arguing that the musician was actually correct in targeting Jews. But Rabbi Jacobson says he won't let that hate win.

"You don't talk about the hatred, we show the love of people ... We celebrate each other, we celebrate our differences, because ultimately, we're standing all on the same ground," Jacobson said.

The Anti-Defamation League identified 2,717 antisemitic incidents across the country in 2021. Not only is that an all-time high, it's also up 34% from the year before.

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