Norfolk’s Grand Illumination Parade includes Hanukkah

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Trending News

Amy Milligan
I cried in Norfolk’s Grand Illumination parade on Saturday evening, Nov. 18 when 14 of us chose Jewish joy and marched with a giant Hanukkah balloon– despite some of us feeling afraid.

It wasn’t lost on us that we were the only group that had multiple uniformed police officers as escorts. We drove through protesters holding antisemitic signs to get to our balloon, not knowing what the parade would hold. I brought up the end of our group, and as we turned the corner onto the official parade route, I watched us smile, wave, and walk into the unknown, and I prayed.

When voices from the crowd called out “Happy Hanukkah,” the feeling of being overwhelmed hit me. I have been berated so often lately that I had feared the worst, but despite some negative jeers, the boisterous warm greetings outweighed them. And then I looked at my beloved and brave friends and our ridiculous balloon, and I cried tears of relief, joy, and pride.

This is how I want us to be. I want us to be kind, to be proud, to be bold, to be brave, to be joyful. And this is what I will continue to fight for every single day because this is what we deserve.

Thank you, strangers—we wanted to put light into the darkness, and you magnified it and made it even brighter.

Amy Milligan is Old Dominion University’s Batten Endowed Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies and the director of the Institute of Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding.