AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the recent spike in antisemitic acts in Austin and participated in lighting the ninth candle as part of a Hanukkah celebration Sunday afternoon.
Abbott, joined by Jewish community leaders, lit the shamash, or “servant candle,” during the ceremony. The ninth candle is used to light other candles.
The event was held on the south lawn of the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.
In the Jewish faith, Hanukkah is an eight-day “festival of lights” is held each year commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 160s BC, CNN explains. The rededication symbolized Jews of the area being able to worship again after Judaism was outlawed by King Antiochus IV.
Contrary to popular belief, Hanukkah is not the Jewish version of Christmas, though it does include certain elements like candy (chocolate gold coins) and games (four-sided spinning toys called dreidels).
“Hanukkah teaches us the power of hope, faith, and perseverance and serves as a testament to the strength and resilience of the Jewish people,” said Abbott in a statement. “As we celebrate the festival of lights, may we all continue to let our own light shine even during the darkest of times. Cecilia and I wish the Jewish community in Texas and around the world a wonderful Hanukkah.”
This year’s festivities come amid a recent local spike in antisemitic acts, including hate-speech banners draped over Austin freeways.
Abbott made comments about the recent attacks, stating that antisemitism had no place in Austin.
“Even in a time of darkness, we have an opportunity to be a light to those around us,” Abbott said. “I have heard, and you may have heard, there have been some incidences recently in Austin, Texas about some antisemitic behavior and actions. That is darkness that we must crowd out with the lightness that we can all provide in our community, so that we can show antisemitism is not tolerated in Austin, Texas, or the state of Texas or the United States of America.”
“So, antisemitism is not something new to the Jewish community, it’s been going on for centuries,” Marvin Hecker, president of the Brotherhood Group at Congregation Beth Israel, told KXAN. “The celebration of Hanukkah is about overcoming antisemitism.”