Proudly Light the Menorah

As we approach the end of the calendar year, please take the opportunity to make or pay your annual campaign commitment to the Jewish Federation by clicking here.
Chanukah starts Sunday evening and our community has an incredible array of events and programs. Click here to find a calendar listing of all the Chanukah happenings.
I was thinking this morning. Since Chanukah is “late” this year, maybe we should tell our children they do not have school next week because it is Chanukah break? How often do we get to say that?
On a more serious note, in commemoration of the Maccabees’ victory against those who sought to destroy the Jewish people, and then the subsequent reclaiming and rededication of the Temple, the rabbis of the Talmud instituted the practice of lighting the Chanukah menorah. They said the lamp must be placed where it can be seen from the outside, to “publicize the miracle” of Jewish survival at a time when all could have been lost.
There is, however, an exception. The Talmud tells us we refrain from publicizing the miracle in times of danger. We are not required to invite peril into our homes.
An American Jewish Committee poll reported that 25% of American Jews say they avoid certain places, events or situations because of fear of being attacked for being Jews, and 31% said they avoid “wearing or displaying things” that would identify them as Jewish. They are trying not to make themselves a target.
Despite the rise in anti-Semitism and the challenges of hate within our country, I know that each night my family will proudly light the menorah and place it in our front window for all to see. I know many in our community will venture to Director Park (or other public menorah lightings around the area) for the public lighting of the menorah with Chabad. We should all be proud Jews. And we cannot allow darkness to overcome the light we shine so brightly on this holiday.
The word Chanukah means “rededication,” and as we celebrate this festival of lights, may we rededicate ourselves to fighting hate in our world and strengthening the Jewish people.
The American Jewish World Service shared eight wonderful reflections in honor of Chanukah on how to build a better. A few key insights:
Tikkun olam has become the catchphrase for social justice in contemporary Jewish life. The emphasis on repairing the world speaks to something centrally Jewish -- our belief in human responsibility and requirement to take action.
We proudly point out that tzedakah means “justice,” not “charity,” but why does that distinction matter? Charity is given out of the kindness of our hearts, when we feel moved to do so. Tzedakah is considered mandatory under Jewish law. We give it whether we feel like it or not. In Jewish thinking, society simply doesn’t work when we neglect those in need.
Translated as “loving-kindness,” chesed is an action we take to help those who are physically or emotionally in need. It is not about writing a check or sending flowers. When others are at their most vulnerable –in mourning, ill, or otherwise struggling -- Judaism commands us to show up.
One who destroys a life, Jewish tradition tells us, is considered to have destroyed the entire world; one who saves a life has saved the entire world. A person is not a statistic – they are a boundlessly precious being who has an entire universe of potential.
We are all part of the same human family, and none of us is more or less important than anyone else.
There has never been anyone else like you and there never will be, and we each have a unique contribution to make to the world.
There is a great deal of Jewish commentary on speech -- about gossip, shaming, lying, and more -- and a verse from the biblical book of Proverbs warns, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” This may seem hyperbolic, until you consider this quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “The Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.”
Your fundamental moral orientation must always be in the direction of the outsider, for in some essential and eternal way, the plight of the stranger was, and always will be, your own.
In celebration of Chanukah, the Jewish Federation is hosting 8 Days of Giving – an online fundraising campaign that will run from December 22 - 30. Our goal is to raise $1000+ each day for each of our Federation-run programs that speak to the various values mentioned above:
Day 3: PDX Pathways
Day 4: Chai Israel
Day 5: Security
Day 6: Right Start
Please click here to get all 8 incredible stories or follow along on our Facebook page. We hope you will support this effort.
Here is how 21 countries around the world celebrate Chanukah. Some interesting tidbits.
Recently I shared with you a great video from Jewish Oregon TV (JOTV). Well, here is their latest release titled, “The Art of Giving Back.” Enjoy! (JOTV is currently accepting sponsored content. If interested in exploring this opportunity, please click here.)
For all young adults in the Jewish community, do not miss Ester Steinberg, one of New York’s funniest comedians who has performed on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Oxygen’s Funny Girls. Ester will perform on Monday, January 13 at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Buy your tickets here.
Shabbat shalom and have a very happy Chanukah. 


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