December 30th, 2019 — Rabbis Brous, Rabbi Kasher, Rabbi Tsadok & Rabbi Lebell
Hanukkah in a Time of Renewed Hatred: A Note From Our Rabbis
Our practice of Hanukkah is rooted in the story of the persecution of Jews for public displays of their Jewishness. We’ve been telling that story for generations, but in the relative safety of the United States, Hanukkah became a fun and festive celebration, complete with spinning dreidels, frying latkes and kitschy parody videos.
But this year, Hanukkah has frighteningly coincided with a spike in the antisemitic attacks that have been building over the past several years. During Hanukkah itself, there were violent assaults against Jews in America every night of the holiday. Most of these attacks took place in New York, a city which has famously been a safe-haven for Jews, and most targeted ultra-Orthodox Jews, those most visibly Jewish. This spree of violence culminated last night, in a vicious attack at a Hanukkah party at a rabbi’s house in Monsey, NY. Five people were attacked with a machete— something out of a horror movie.
This surge in anti-Jewish attacks can feel as confusing as it is terrifying. Though the assailants clearly mean to target Jews, their particular motivations are not always obvious.
One thing is clear: over the last few years, a culture of hatred and violence has been deliberately unleashed through the rhetoric of the powerful, for political gain. That hate has been seized upon and stoked by extremists across the political spectrum. History has shown us, again and again, that when powerful people fuel fear and hatred, Jews are inevitably targeted.
So this Hanukkah, we must tap back into the original themes of the holiday: solidarity and resistance. We stand with Jews all over the country, and all over the world, in refusing to hide who we are and what we believe. We know that silence will not make this go away. We must come together to speak out.
We also know that in today’s battle against hatred, we cannot fight alone. To all of our friends— especially those in the movements dedicated to fighting tyranny, racism, bigotry, and injustice: we need you. Our community is hurting and scared. Please let us hear your voices and feel your love. We must stand together against hate.
Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. The tradition teaches that we should place our candles in the window, in order to publicize the miracle of our survival. However, we are also taught that, in times of danger, we can light the menorah on a table in the house. Those two legal options represent a tension. On the one hand, we want to declare, proudly, who we are, and to tell the world we are not backing down. But on the other hand, our first priority is always to take care of each other and stay safe. So we encourage you to take both these values seriously. Together we will do what we need to be safe AND to be brave.
Wherever you place your candles tonight, take a moment to reflect on the triumph of our tradition over the forces that would seek to extinguish it. That eternal light, which has guided our people for thousands of years, will never be extinguished.
Rabbis Brous, Kasher, Tsadok & Lebell