New PBS documentary explains the history of Jewish festival Hanukkah.
Filmmaker David Anton has produced another excellent documentary, Hanukkah: A Festival of deLights. The film, lasting an hour, premiered on Sunday, on WLIW in New York. Anton was also behind Hugs and Knishes: A Celebration of Our Jewish Foods and Traditions.
Marvin Antonofsky, retired rabbi and father of Anton, was the one who interviewed the majority of the subjects in the documentary. Sam Toperoff, former professor, author, and friend of Anton, was the writer and narrator.
In the new documentary, Anton explores how Hanukkah become a holiday to the Jews, due to its family focus and accessibility.
Anton realized his desire to create this documentary, after observing that there weren’t a lot of films on Hanukkah. He understood that his documentary has the power to bring families together spending time watching his movie.
In the documentary, author of Hanukkah in America: A History, professor and historian at Rowan University, Dianne Ashton explains the rise in popularity of this Jewish holiday.
According to Ashton, Isaac Mayer Weiss and Max Lilienthal, two rabbis from Cincinnati, were the ones responsible for bringing this holiday to the attention of the public. Both the rabbis observed that there was no event, especially for the children. As both the rabbis had newspapers, they used them to publicize the events. The duo also gave readers the opportunity to interact with the rabbis, to see how they integrated these events into their synagogues.
William Shatner also voiced his opinions in the documentary, giving viewers a rare insight about his personal life. In the film, Shatner described the kitchen during his childhood, which brought back several memories.
Anton believes that due to the nature of how things are at present, it is essential for everyone to know about this holiday. He continued that by educating people about Hanukkah, they can think about and understand the religion. Also, he wants his documentary to help non-Jews get a different perspective of their faith.
In an interview with Forward, Anton said, “I think in the times that we’re living in, where we’re seeing innocent people killed just for being Jewish, we need to come together. The Hanukkah story is at the root of that — the idea of coming through the darkness and the hope that these candles represent.”
This year Hanukkah begins December 2 and runs through December 10.