Defining Hanukkah: Pluralism

Hanukkah represents the struggle to follow one's values and religion in a pluralistic world that often demands uniformity.

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Those stubborn Chasidim raised a subtle issue of political existence and religious truth that is only coming into its own in the 20th century. Ultimately, the touchstone of human survival will be the ability of people with passionately held beliefs and absolute commitments to allow for pluralism. National peace will turn on the capacity of groups organized around values to allow the inherent dignity of the other into their own structures. How to achieve this respect without surrendering to indifference or group selfishness is the great challenge.

On Hanukkah, Jews celebrate that challenge and affirm the Jewish determination never again to let universal rhetoric ("to make the world safe for. . .") cripple the Jews' right to defend themselves. On Hanukkah, Jews urge humankind to take responsibility for the varieties and multiforms of human life. Hanukkah is also a profoundly Zionist holiday, for it asserts the right of politically self-determined existence for each group.

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Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg was the president of Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation and founding president of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He also is the author of For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity (2004, Jewish Publication Society).