Proudly celebrating Hanukkah ‘crucial’ for Jews in face of rising antisemitism: ‘Refuse to cower’
Prominent Jewish figures said it’s more crucial than ever to celebrate Hanukkah to let the world know that the light of Israel and the Jewish people will never go dim, even in the growing shadow of antisemitism.
Jewish media figures, activists, a relative of victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre, and a prominent rabbi spoke to Fox News Digital ahead of the Jewish holiday – which begins Thursday evening, exactly two months after the terrorist attack – noting how especially significant the celebration is in light of a grim end to 2023.
“All over the world, Jews and non-Jews alike must refuse to cower in fear, and refuse to hide,” author and columnist Bethany Mandel said.
“Publicize the miracle, not just of Hanukkah, but of the Jewish people and the Jewish nation,” she declared.
The celebration of Hanukkah is viewed as a testament to the resilience shown by the Jewish people for thousands of years. The quintessential display associated with the holiday – the lighting of the nine candles on the Menorah – conveys how Judaism has survived the darkness of oppressive forces of the world.
Hanukkah first originated as a celebration of when the Maccabees revolted against their Greco-Syrian Seleucid rulers in the second century B.C., who took over the Jewish Temple and outlawed Judaism.
According to the Talmud, a Jewish holy text, a miracle of light occurred when Judah rededicated the Temple after the revolt. A single intact vial of oil was found inside the desecrated temple, and it burned for eight nights.
The celebration’s symbolism is especially resonant today after the brutal massacre of 1,200 people in Israel at the hands of the terror group Hamas. While many have rallied to Israel’s cause and supported the Jewish community, anti-Israel and antisemitic backlash have also ensued.
“From Sydney, Australia to Brooklyn, New York, Jewish communities have been told to hide inside on the Sabbath, lest they run afoul of angry mobs protesting their existence,” Mandel said.
Additionally, a major menorah lighting at the 2nd Sundays Art and Music Festival in Williamsburg, Va., was scrapped this week because of the controversy surrounding the Israel-Hamas war. Festival founder Shirley Vermillion claimed the display “seemed very inappropriate” in light of recent events, a statement that earned the ire of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
The governor posted on X Monday, “Singling out the Jewish community by canceling this Hanukkah celebration is absurd and antisemitic. The event organizers should immediately reconsider their actions and move forward with the menorah lighting.”
Mandel said the spirit of Hanukkah demands a rejection of this instinct to hide.
“One of the primary requirements of lighting the Hanukkah menorah is pirsumei nisa – publicizing the miracle. One of the laws of the holiday is to ensure that the menorah is visible from outside one’s home, and thus, many Jews put them on their windowsills or even in their doorwayss,” she said.
She urged her fellow Jews, “Light a menorah, spin a dreidel, and don’t let Jew-haters decide when we’re allowed to be visibly Jewish.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center – a leading global Jewish human rights organization – said Jewish families throughout the world displaying the menorah in their home windows, or in a glass box outside their front doors, is an act of sharing the light of Judaism for all to see.
“Always try to put it near a window, so that everyone – all of our neighbors, all of our friends and family – will know that we are commemorating the victory of light over darkness and also commemorating the continuity of the Jewish people against all odds,” he said.
Cooper hammered home the importance of celebrating the holiday during a time when the Jewish community feels “totally under siege.”
“This is an unprecedented time. We already had a spike of antisemitism in the U.S., say in New York, before COVID… And now you also see, whether it’s MIT, or Harvard, or Yale, or Cornell, or Penn, or UCLA, a lot of young Jewish students are made to feel by pro-Hamas demonstrators, that, you know, they’re intimidated.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Fox that now is not the time for the Jewish people to give into fear and suppress the celebration of the holiday and their faith.
“In the wake of the October 7 massacre and rising rates of antisemitism globally, it’s vitally important that Jewish families and individuals can express the beauty and light of Hanukkah as they always have done,” he said.
“We should not let fear or threats stop American Jews from practicing their faith freely or celebrating this holiday, especially at a time at a time when the miracle of Hanukkah and the story of the Maccabees has particular meaning,” he added.
Jewish Institute for National Security of America President and CEO Michael Makovsky spoke about how Hanukkah is a reminder to the world of “the Jews’ longstanding historic relationship with and sovereignty over the Land of Israel,” a reality that anti-Jewish and pro-Palestinian groups have been railing against, especially since Oct. 7.
Makovsky also noted how the holiday is emblematic of Israel’s recurring civilizational fight for survival, stating, “Then, the struggle was against the Hellenized Greeks; today, the Greeks are Israel’s close friends, and the fight is against Iran-backed Islamist genocidal terror. Celebrating Hanukkah this year is equivalent to celebrating modern Israel for fighting this civilizational battle today, and supporting it toward victory, in which America has much at stake.”
Fox also spoke to Abbey Onn, an American Israeli who saw relatives in the kibbutz of Nir Oz in Israel murdered and taken hostage by Hamas terrorists.
Despite the tragedy, Onn still expressed hope and joy in the holiday.
“Hanukkah is a holiday about miracles,” she said. “About light in darkness. On October 7, 5 of my family members were taken hostage by Hamas. Two were murdered by Hamas and on November 27, two of my young cousins were released. A miracle. Their father is still being held hostage.”
She added, “We will fight until he is released and until every single hostage is released. This is a moment for all of us to be a light in darkness.”
Originally Published in Fox News.