Home Digital Content Library Chanukah and Its Rituals, Television Program, December 13, 1953

Chanukah and Its Rituals, Television Program, December 13, 1953



In this December 11, 1953 audio recording, Temple Israel’s recently installed new Senior Rabbi, Roland B. Gittelsohn, hosts the third episode of the newly initiated This is Temple Israel television show. Sponsored by the Temple Israel Brotherhood, which had been sponsoring radio broadcasts since 1924, the This is Temple Israel television program was initiated in October, 1953, soon after Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn’s installation. Hoping to extend the Brotherhood’s efforts “on behalf of better human relations” into a new medium, the program was designed to acquaint a broad audience with Jewish teachings and practices in celebration of the synagogue’s centennial year.  Recorded at the Temple Israel of Boston campus on Commonwealth Avenue, it was broadcast on Massachusetts television station WNAC on the second Sunday of each month until 1978, when the show’s title and format were changed. 

The December show focuses on the history and rituals of Chanukah, with Rabbi Gittelsohn first telling the story of the Maccabees’ battle for religious freedom, their reconsecration of the Second Temple, and the legend of the tiny flask of oil that lasts eight days. He then discusses the holiday’s modern message—that minorities have the right to resist conformism and the power to defeat formidable oppressors through faith and courage. 

Next, nine young girls perform a Chanukah ceremony in which they each represent and explicate the meaning of one candle “light.” The girls had presented this ceremony a week earlier at the Sisterhood’s first Chanukah Mothers and Daughters Religious Service and Luncheon, which was also the first Temple Israel service ever led entirely by women, and Rabbi Gittelsohn subsequently invited them to repeat their performance on television. Finally, Rabbi Gittelsohn shows his audience three menorahs from the Sisterhood Ceremonial Museum and performs a “candle lighting ceremony in our temple… such as you might have witnessed in almost any Jewish home around the world.” 

The  program broadcast program was produced by Alfred Sherman and directed by Ted Fechter and Tony Lang. Herbert Fromm, Temple Israel’s Music Director, was the conductor.

This recording, along with several hundred others that capture services, sermons, and other events from 1934-1979, have recently been digitized by the Temple Israel Archives. Free streaming access to these recordings is available via the Digital Commonwealth, The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), or by request from the Wyner Archives, Temple Israel of Boston.This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Council on Library Informaion Resources
If you have memories of this or similar TI events, or any other comments or feedback that you would like to share, please send them to archives@tisrael.org.