How to Support Wisconsin’s Jewish Community This Holiday Season
50% of all crimes related to religious prejudice target Jews, who represent only 2% of the population. One in four suffered a hate-motivated attack in 2021, and while the numbers for this year are not yet known, they are expected to be even higher.
Around 42,000 Jewish adults live in Wisconsin. More than half live in Milwaukee and Madison. They are our neighbours. Our friends. Our family members. Our collaborators. Local business owners. Teachers. political leaders. And much more.
And like any minority group facing discrimination, they need our Support.
how to help
Support takes many forms, but it departures with understanding. The Guide to Jewish Wisconsin is a statewide digital database that helps newcomers and natives learn about the Jewish people and organizations that make up the state.
Click here to download the guide for free.
Here you’ll find information on Jewish holidays, as well as synagogues, schools, daycares, museums, newspapers, and Jewish organizations across the state.
Here are a few things we learned:
Hanukkah, or ‘Hanucca’, is a minor holiday in the Jewish faith. Also known as the “Festival of Lights”, the holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over the Hellenists, when they returned to Jerusalem and rededicated the Holy Temple. According to tradition, the miracle of the feast comes from the single jug of consecrated oil that was discovered in the Temple and burned for eight days, until more could be made. That’s why foods fried in oil, like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly fritters), are popular this time of year!
A Milwaukee museum houses more than 225 Jewish artifacts, including many from the Holocaust. Located on Santa Monica Boulevard in Milwaukee, the Rabbi Ronald and Judy Shapiro Museum of Judaica is divided into four sections, each devoted to a distinct period of Jewish art and culture. Perhaps most notable is the museum’s collection of household items and artwork salvaged from the homes of European Jews during the Holocaust. The exhibit also includes the only known mural by famed Wisconsin artist Joseph Friebert.
Wisconsin is home to the eighth oldest synagogue in America, which will turn 160 next year. In 1963, Jewish immigrants from Germany built the “Gates of Heaven” Synagogue on the 200 block of West Washington Avenue, just off Madison’s Capitol Square. In 1970 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, the city bought it, restored it, and moved it to James Madison Park, across the plaza. Today it is used for a variety of events, from weddings to voting on Election Day!
Wisconsin’s largest menorah is on a bridge. Each year, the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee lights a different beam of support with flashing red, orange and yellow lights. Each Hanukkah night, a new beam is lit until all eight “burn” together. The tradition started in 2020 as a safe way to celebrate during the pandemic. “It’s not just for the Jewish community – it’s for Milwaukee,” said Jewish Federation President Jeff Jones. “This is an opportunity to spread light, hope and unity.”
You don’t have to live in Milwaukee to see the Hoan Bridge lights. Click here to watch the nightly livestream.
Shine a Light also has great resources for teaching kids (of all ages) about the Jewish faith and the anti-Semitic epidemic in America. Click here to find out more.