by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – In a typical year, many of us build anticipation for Chanukah well in advance of its actual arrival. We anticipate the fun and meaning we derive in sharing the chag (holiday) with family and friends, and we note that Chanukah is either a precursor to, or embedded in, winter vacation. This special holiday includes communal and individual customs, storytelling from generation to generation, the taste of delicious latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts), and the related feelings we experience consuming too many of each. And, of course, we light the Chanukiah, or Chanukah menorah for eight nights, marking the entire term of the holiday, and representing the miracle of the tiny bit of oil that lasted for eight nights.
The holiday is anchored by fun and family, reminiscing, visiting, and seeing happiness in the eyes of future generations – our children, and grandchildren. In some cases, we are fortunate to have great grandchildren. However, the story of Chanukah is also one of resistance against those who would do us harm, of maintaining and celebrating Jewish pride, and of a battle in which the Maccabees and Jews were greatly outnumbered by their enemies. As we know, the world is experiencing a significant spike in antisemitism – through words and actions, and from anywhere and everywhere.
Expressions of Jew hatred and antisemitism have long been a consistent form of discrimination and hate, and it is frightening how commonplace and normalized these behaviours currently are. From our neighbours next door to political officials to the world’s most influential celebrities and athletes, we continue to hear conspiracy theories, despise for Israel, antisemitic tropes, and overt and unfounded dislike aimed at us. The initiators and spreaders of this hate cannot be isolated to one group, and their actions cannot be summarily dismissed. They would have us be fearful, demoralized, and even gone.
Now, more than ever, we must be brave, bold, resilient, and support one another. We must be one community. As Chag Urim (the festival of lights), another name for Chanukah, emerges, we should share our light with the world, and especially with one another. Our children and youth need us, our older adults need us, and certainly our entire community needs each and every one of us to stand tall and proud – not to shrink in fear. And, yes, it might be scary or uncomfortable at this particular time to place our Chanukiyot prominently in our windows, to wear our Chai (life) or Magen David (Jewish star – shield of David) jewelry, to say our brachot (blessings) loudly for all to hear. But now is exactly the time to do so – to show our family, friends, community members, and allies that we are here and we are not shrinking. We are glowing proudly, and sharing that glow.
The need remains for continuing Jewish advocacy and security efforts to assist our community’s organizations in keeping students, congregants, members, and participants safe. We must continue to be active members of Jewish Calgary. I am appealing to each and every reader to stand together, and to be proud of our incredible Jewish heritage. Light illuminates the darkness, making it a little less scary as the light intensifies. This Chanukah, each of us, and all of us together, can send a very clear message in the current darkness we are feeling – there is no room for hate and we will not cower. We will stand together and continue to shine bright!
From my family to Jewish Calgary, Chag Chanukah Sameach!
Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation