Last night marked the beginning of Chanukah, and many of us had the privilege of participating in the lighting of the Chanukiah (the Chanukah menorah) with four witnesses of what happened on October 7th in Israel as part of a program led by our JCC. Each Israeli guest experienced the horrors committed by Hamas, sharing stories that are too distressing to put into writing. Their reflections were truly horrific. While it was difficult to hear what they shared, having them stand in front of the crowd of Pittsburghers while lighting the first candle on the first night of Chanukah was inspiring. It demonstrated resilience, strength, and determination.
The story of Chanukah is also one of Jewish resilience, strength, and determination. A paragraph I found on the Union for Reform Judaism’s website regarding the history of Chanukah explains it well:
Although historians debate the causes and outcomes of the war in which Judah Maccabee and his followers defeated the Syrian armies of Antiochus, there is no doubt that Chanukah evokes stirring images of Jewish valor against overwhelming odds. Other themes of the holiday include the refusal to submit to the religious demands of an empire practicing idolatry, the struggle against total assimilation into Greek culture and the loss of Jewish identity, and the fight for Jewish political autonomy and self-determination.
That fight continues today, extending beyond the heroic efforts of those defending Israel. I’m referring to the battle against institutions of higher learning that claim to combat hatred on campuses but turn a blind eye to fighting antisemitism fully. We must resist the world that condemns unimaginable acts against women but remains silent when it comes to Jewish women. It means speaking out as citizens in support of the many elected officials who stand unwaveringly with Israel and against those who fail to vehemently stand against antisemitism in this country and those who deny the right of the existence of the one and only Jewish state.
These four Israelis serve as a stark reminder of why we must not relent. If they can find the strength to share their unimaginable stories about what they experienced, we can do our part too.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.
There is still time to speak up for Israel.
1. Find your member of Congress.
2. Refer to the provided scripts.
3. MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR ISRAEL!