Light Your Hanukkiah in Solidarity Against Terrorism–Or, You Know, Because of Hanukkah

Several people have forwarded me this email in the past two days:

Dear Friends,

Last Shabbat, in my sermon, I offered a response to the terror in Mumbai, and to the violence and darkness that surrounds us. At the end of my remarks, I called on Jews throughout the world to exercise our role of bringing light to the world. As a symbolic and visible expression of that idea, I issued a call that this year we all light a Hanukah menorah/Hanukiyah at our windows, facing the street, in solidarity with the victims of terror, in pride of our Jewish heritage, and to add light to the world outside. This gesture, if practiced by Jews all across America, will send a powerful message across our nation.    03_girl_and_menorah_in_window.jpg

I urge you to send this message to your friends and family throughout the country, and ask them to forward it to as many people as possible, so that Jews across America will send a powerful signal to the world of our collective strength and of our determination to bring light to our world.

Rabbi Allan Kensky
Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah
Wilmette, Illinois

The following message may be forwarded:

HANUKAH LIGHTS IN WINDOWS ACROSS AMERICA
This year, in response to terrorism, to violence and to the darkness that surrounds us, we call on Jews across America to place a Hanukah Menorah/Hanukiyah at our windows, facing the street, in solidarity with the victims of terror, in pride of our Jewish heritage, and to add light to the world outside. May this gesture add to our determination to exercise our role of bringing light to the world, and may it help dispel some of the darkness that surrounds us.

This sounds all well and good for me, but isn’t it a tad redundant? I mean, we’re already meant to be lighting a Hanukkiah and putting it in our windows during Hanukkah. So what’s the difference that Rabbi Kensky is calling for? That we should do so with the intention of being in solidarity with victims of terror? That just seems silly. Afterwards perhaps we should all exhale in memory of victims of the Holocaust, or blink to support the people of Darfur.

Okay, so maybe exhaling and blinking aren’t exactly the same thing as lighting a Hanukkiah, but my point still stands. Rabbi Kensky isn’t asking us to do anything we shouldn’t be doing already. And that makes it a pretty ineffective stand against terrorism.

This epitomizes some of the issues I have with Jewish responses to social injustice, terror and crime in the world. We’re either asked to give way more money or time than most people can afford, or we’re asked to generously do basically nothing. Isn’t there a middle ground somewhere?

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