by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – In a few days, we will celebrate Chanukah. Our homes will begin to smell like latkes very soon, we will chase down chocolate gelt in the store, we will dust off and clean up our Chanukiyot (Chanukah Menorahs), and some of us might even be donning a novelty Chanukah sweater we have stored away for a year. Of course, like last year, we will be thinking about COVID-safe ways to celebrate with family and friends, and many of us will find ourselves Zoom-lighting our candles with people across Canada and around the globe.
There are several themes that typically emerge when discussing Chag Urim, the Festival of Lights. A common topic is that of miracles and overcoming great challenges. After all, as we embrace the story of very limited oil lasting for eight days, and the victory of a few brave Jews over the army that would do them harm, miracles are seen throughout the holiday.
We are also drawn to the lighting of the Chanukiyah and its placement in our windows to demonstrate our pride, our heritage, and our responsibility to be Or L’Goyim, a light unto the nations.
The Maccabees were committed to preserving our Jewish heritage, to combating injustice, and to ensuring a Jewish future. They were committed to fighting against forced assimilation and hate. These themes are still current and resonate with us in 2021!
Another incredibly important part of Chanukah is its focus on multiple generations. There is something in Chanukah for everyone, and many of us experience the holiday with multiple generations of family and friends. We light the candles together, we send greetings or have gatherings, and we pass along our own personal and family traditions from generation to generation – l’dor v’dor. Chanukah has stood the test of time and is one of the most recognized and celebrated Jewish holidays year after year. No matter religious affiliation or ritual practice, many Jews acknowledge the holiday in one way or another. Over time, and from generation to generation, it has remained a constant.
You will no doubt know that our community’s UJA Annual Campaign is underway, with almost (at the time of writing) $1.5M of our $2.5M goal achieved. We are so grateful to all donors and volunteers who continue to light the way for future generations. I would like to appeal to join us if you’ve not yet contributed. I would also like to share great appreciation for those who have made a gift to keep Jewish Calgary vibrant, active, caring, and secure. I would like to suggest we should all keep modeling generous and caring behaviour, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our peers, children, and grandchildren are watching and learning.
An article I recently read by Ottoni-Willhelm et al. (2017) entitled “Raising charitable children: the effects of verbal socialization and role-modeling on children’s giving” connects parental (or substitute) verbalizing and role-modeling behaviours as having a positive impact on those actions of their children. While there are some outliers noted in the article, overall, it is highlighted that ongoing positive giving and role-modeling for youth and young adults leads to greater participation and charitable involvement. While that shouldn’t be a surprise, I challenge us all to truly act in the interests of l’dor v’dor – let us all ensure that Jewish Calgary is an amazing community for now and forever. Let’s build a network and community of future leaders and philanthropists and, mostly, of proud Jews.
Wishing you and yours a Chag Chanukah Sameach,
Adam Silver is CEO, Calgary Jewish Federation.