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Is it Safe to celebrate Hanukkah?

12/02/2018 01:31:48 PM

Dec2

It has been a little over a month since the murders in Pittsburgh.  Now we may wonder whether it is safe to attend public Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies with our children.  This question was discussed in a Facebook group for Jewish parents of Northern Westchester.  It is a reasonable question. We live in a time when bigots feel empowered to express their hate and to act on it. Is it safe to publicly proclaim our Jewishness? 

In thinking about this question, I remembered a true story.  It happened in Billings, Montana in 1993.  The Pacific Northwest is a place where white supremacists feel overly empowered because there is little racial, ethnic or religious diversity, especially outside of large cities.

One night of Hanukkah someone threw a rock though the window into the bedroom of a six-year-old boy.  He had placed his electric menorah in the window, as is the Hanukkah custom.  The menorah was a public proclamation of his Jewishness.

In response, Christian clergy in Billings decided to ask the people in their congregations to place menorahs in their windows.  When other windows were broken, the local newspaper printed a picture of a menorah and encouraged everyone to tape the pictures on their windows.  The town was determined to take a stand against hate. What they did made a difference.

Here at Temple Israel, after the Pittsburgh shootings, we encouraged everyone to come to a special Shabbat service.  Croton’s police made sure we were secure. Our sanctuary and oneg room were filled with people.  Many of our non-Jewish friends stood with us that evening.  Their presence declared:  you are not alone. We will stand with you. Together we are strong.

Instead of avoiding public Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies because we are afraid, let’s remember that the greater community is on our side.  Perhaps we should invite our friends of all faiths and backgrounds to join us for these celebrations.  This is one way we can share the light of Hanukkah. 

Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779