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73% of Israeli Jews light the menorah for the full eight days of Hanukkah

New JPPI survey shows that Hanukkah customs are especially popular among Israeli Jews: 79% claim to eat sufganiyot during the holiday, 63% give Hanukkah gelt and 42% report going to a Hanukkah show.

There is almost no Israeli Jew that does not light Hanukkah candles. This data comes from the #IsraeliJudaism project of the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), an extensive research project on Israeli Judaism. A new book based on the project’s findings: #IsraeliJudaism, a portrait of a cultural revolution, was published by dvir publication.

One in four Israeli Jews lights Hanukkah candles some nights, but, not all eight nights. Almost three out of four Israeli Jews (73%) claim they light the Hanukiah (menorah) for the full eight days of Hanukkah.

In most of the Israeli groups, there is a clear majority that lights candles every night of Hanukkah, they include the “Religious” (97%), “Traditional” (86%) and “Seculars who are a bit traditional” (71%).

The only group for whom most of its members light Hanukkah candles “most nights” are those who identify as “completely Secular.” Out of this group, which constitutes a little more than a quarter of Israeli Jews (28%), there is a slightly larger percentage of those who light Hanukkah candles “some nights” (44%) than those who light Hanukkah candles “every night” (40%).

Most Israeli Jews partake in several Hanukkah activities, such as eating sufganiyot (doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) (79%) and giving Hanukkah gelt (money) (64% — this practice is especially common among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) (89%). A significant percentage of Israeli Jews (42%) report attending one of Hanukkah`s special shows, such as the Festigal (an Israeli Hanukkah musical), a festival or a play.

The new book by Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs draws an interesting comparison between American Jews – the largest Jewish Community outside of Israel – and Israeli Jews. This comparison
shows that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be a much more important holiday than Israeli Jews consider it to be. More than two thirds of American Jews (68%) consider Hanukkah to be “one of the three most important holidays” – probably because of its proximity to Christmas – compared to about a third of Israeli Jews (38%).

However, the fact that American Jews consider Hanukkah to be an extremely important holiday does not translate to a high percentage of participation in Hanukkah traditions.

As shown in the chart below, while three out of four Israeli Jews light Hanukkah candles “every night,” less than two out of three American Jews do so (60%). This gap in holiday observance exists for many holidays, almost all of them. For almost all Jewish practices checked, the data show that Israeli Jews partake in more Jewish traditions than American Jews.

JPPI’s Israeli-Judaism project is headed by Senior Fellow Shmuel Rosner, and Professor Camil Fuchs (Tel Aviv University), who oversees the surveys and statistical analysis. JPPI Fellow Noah Slepkov assisted in data analysis, drawn from a survey conducted of 3000 Israeli Jews in two rounds, one of 2000 Israeli Jews and another of an additional 1000 respondents, a representative sample of the Jewish public in Israel. The statistical margin of error for the sample of 3000 survey respondents is 1.8%. the #IsraeliJudaism book as published in a cooperation between Dvir Publications and the JPPI.