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We take a ride through Cincinnati's first drive-through Hanukkah lights display


The Jewish holiday Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights for its eight nights of candle-lighting and celebration. Tonight will be night No. 5.

From member station WVXU, Tana Weingartner takes us to Cincinnati's first drive-through Hanukkah lights display.

TANA WEINGARTNER, BYLINE: Among other things, Hanukkah marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where a one-day supply of oil miraculously lasted eight days. Jews around the world celebrate the event by lighting candles in menorahs each night. But for a holiday called the Festival of Lights, twinkling strands of lights have been largely absent.

Rabbi Laura Baum wanted to do something about that. She runs Cincinnati's Rockwern Academy, a Jewish day school for toddlers through sixth grade. She says at least in Cincinnati this year, Christmas doesn't have the monopoly on holiday lights.

LAURA BAUM: I think that many people traditionally go to Christmas lights or other holiday lights at this time of year, and it's so exciting for the Jewish community to have its own lights display finally.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hanukkah sameach.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Hi, how are you? Do you want to scan the code?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you so - oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) I have a little dreidel.

WEINGARTNER: The school has transformed its parking lot into a sea of sparkling white and blue lights. It's a wonderland of Hanukkah decorations, inflatable menorahs and spinning tops called dreidels. Carloads of families are weaving through the display on a chilly night, listening to a soundtrack of students singing Hanukkah songs.

The Sarembock family is bundled up to take in the display with their car windows down. The inflatables were a big hit with kids Kaleb, Eva and Oliver, who liked a glowing Hanukkah bear best.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: I liked him because he's holding a dreidel. And the menorah is - like, light up him. And he's wearing the kippa and the Jewish star.

WEINGARTNER: Do you normally get to see these kinds of things this time of year?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: No. Well, we do see Christmas lights a lot. But...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Well, see lights but we don't celebrate Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: ...We don't celebrate, so...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: But we - I'm happy because Hanukkah, too.

WEINGARTNER: Cincinnati is the birthplace of Reform Judaism in North America and, in the mid-19th century, was America's third-largest Jewish community. And yet, Baum says as far as she knows, this is its first-ever drive-through Hanukkah lights display.

BAUM: If there was a light-up Hanukkah item to be purchased, we purchased it. We got creative.

WEINGARTNER: Hanukkah ends Monday evening, but Baum says she's already planning to make next year bigger and brighter. For NPR News, I'm Tana Weingartner in Cincinnati.


Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.