It has become popular in the engaged core of the Jewish community to look down on Chanukah.
It is an unimportant holiday, some say. Others say that celebrating Chanukah in a big way compromises Jewish values; they worry that it is emphasized only because of its proximity to Christmas.
We beg to differ. There is nothing wrong with fun holidays like Chanukah and Purim. In fact, they’re a great opportunity to engage those who have become bored with or alienated from Jewish life.
The “unimportant” holiday of Chanukah has a lot going on, something for everyone: Inspiring miracles, military campaigns, a controversial revolt, the fight against assimilation, a connection to other cultures’ winter light festivals – not to mention delectable fried foods and fun parties and games. On top of that, its wide popularity (regardless of whether its popularity stems from the proximity to and association with Christmas) make it a perfect gateway holiday:
Less engaged Jews and their families may already be thinking more about their Jewish background at this time of year because of Chanukah’s high name recognition in the broader culture. Instead of sneering at Chanukah, we should embrace it as a chance to meet less engaged Jews and help them become more involved in the Jewish community.
To that end, we have created this list of eight values toward building an inclusive Jewish community on Chanukah. We hope this list will help you see Chanukah for the important outreach opportunity that it is – and the deeply meaningful holiday that it can be.
1. Warmth: Share the friendly warmth of the Jewish community as the weather turns colder.
2. Light: No matter how you got here, no matter what road you took, the light will illuminate your way to the Jewish community
3. Faith: Many cultures have a winter light festival, making this a great holiday to share with others from different backgrounds.
4. Communal Memory: See yourself as part of the collective story of the Jewish people, see how it unfolds in the story of Chanukah, and claim it as your own.
5. Rededication: There is a place for you in the Jewish community no matter how long you’ve been away – or even if you’ve never been a part of it before.
6. Reconciliation: Leave internal conflict within the Jewish community behind as your community celebrates Chanukah.
7. Accessibility: Make sure that all are not only welcome to celebrate, but able to celebrate as well.
8. Renewal: Adapt old Chanukah traditions so that they continue to live and have meaning in your life.
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