Who ever thought it would take courage to put a Hanukkah Menorah in your window? It’s something that most of us have done all of our lives, but this year may be the first time that some will feel too intimidated to do so.
I could hardly believe my eyes, when I received a text from a friend just yesterday which said, “Hanukkah celebrations have been canceled by municipalities across North America.” After being a bit skeptical, I discovered, much to my horror, that it was true, at least in Virginia.
“A scheduled Hanukkah celebration set to take place during the upcoming Second Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 10th has been canceled, sparking controversy and accusations of discrimination.”
The pretext given, by the organizer, was due to concerns over the war taking place right now more than 6,000 miles away, but, in truth, the real reason was the implication of support for Israel, despite a pathetic and flimsy attempt at saying they don’t want to “imply support for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.” Since when is commemorating a religious holiday associated with political support or a conflict that was started by savage terrorists?
By that kind of twisted logic, if a terror attack is perpetrated in Rome, in December, necessitating the Italian army to defend its citizens, should Christmas celebrations in America be canceled in order to not imply support of a conflict taking place in Italy? It doesn’t get more bizarre than this when trying to find a reason to sideline Jewish observance or Jewish identity. The festival’s founder was quoted as saying that “the menorah lighting seemed very inappropriate given current events in Israel and Gaza.”
Is it not more inappropriate to cancel an observance that commemorates a miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days and the sanctifying of the holy temple that had been defiled? Coincidentally, we find ourselves at a time when the greatest defiling of innocent Jews has just taken place in the homeland. The stunning lack of knowledge, shown by this founder, as it relates to the significance of this holiday, is almost on par with the willfully ignorant protesters who accuse Israel of committing genocide and apartheid against Palestinians.
And that is one of the greatest transgressions we have witnessed since October 7. The spreading of vicious lies and accusations targeted at Israel, and now the Jewish community, by association, which is, in large part, responsible for a sudden outbreak of antisemitism at an unprecedented level in America and throughout Europe, since the Holocaust more than 80 years ago.
Rather than capitulate to the threats of backlash or what others will think, why aren’t municipalities and sponsors of public religious observances and celebrations doubling down on the importance of retaining public ceremonies for Jews at a time when doing so is at their own peril? If their anticipation of protests or violence is the justification for shutting down a religious act, then how does freedom of religion remain applicable in what is supposed to be a free society?
When you have to think twice about what you wear, where you go to worship and what religious ornaments you display in your home, isn’t it time to re-examine whether or not your country has been hijacked?
When an American realtor tells prospective sellers to remove the mezuzah from their door, isn’t that worrisome? Jews throughout Europe who were not selling homes didn’t have to be told to remove their mezuzahs. They instinctively knew that it was the prudent thing to do in order to avoid having a Star of David painted on the wall of their house, as has already been done in some places inhabited by Jews. Yet, others, reluctant to display their ethnicity, have removed their kippot (skullcaps) or Jewish star jewelry which they once wore without a thought.
There is an eerily familiar encroachment of the Jewish freedoms which history records were suddenly lost prior to pre-Holocaust Europe due to impending fears. And although, today, they are mostly being fueled by the progressive left, they are now being supported by “concerned individuals” who want to avoid confrontation which they feel could spontaneously erupt from those who believe that Jews and Israel are part of the same basket of deplorables. So, it’s no wonder that Jews would be marginalized and silenced.
But what happens when you take away the rights and freedoms of one group that has suddenly become an offense to a segment of society? Does it not stand to reason that Christians are the next bloc to follow, being equally deemed as abhorrent and distasteful? Because this type of contagion spreads rapidly.
In Canada, for the first time in 20 years, the town of Moncton has decided not to display a menorah outside its city hall. While non-Jews still get to enjoy the Christmas tree and angels that adorn the City Hall grounds, the disenfranchisement of the Jewish community is right there for all to see, as evidenced by no holiday representation from them.
Newsweek, in its coverage of this story, saw fit to remind everyone that “Israel has bombed targets across the besieged Gaza Strip and widened a ground offensive following the collapse of a week-long ceasefire on Friday.” No mention that Hamas, who initiated the savage and barbaric attack, were the same ones who violated the ceasefire by not releasing innocent children and women whom they are still holding. They report on the Palestinians who have been displaced but no word about the families who will never return to their homes, because they were burned alive and butchered like cattle.
But then why should Newsweek bother themselves with trivial details like that? If they wanted to be fair and honest, they might report that Hamas is a barbaric terror organization, which everyone should hope and pray is eradicated by Israel before they come for them too.
On a brighter note, although the Hanukkah controversy made its way to England, the London Council of Havering relented on their initial position to also cancel a public Hanukkah celebration over fears of what might occur. After lengthy discussions, it was decided that the festivities would move forward and are scheduled to take place on December 12. Proudly referring to themselves as a cohesive and inclusive borough, they chose not to be intimidated.
In fact, Daniella Myers, a member of the Jewish community, “stressed that it was particularly important that Jews do not hide themselves during this festival, as there is much religious significance to be placed on the placement of a menorah in front of a window.”
By making that statement, Myers has taken the position that bravery is not necessarily the motivation for giving the menorah a central place in the home for all to see, even from outside, but that the story, itself, speaks of the importance of honoring and preserving faith, especially at a time when the right to do so is being threatened!
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.