stoughton.wickedlocal.com/Written by Rabbi Mendel Gurkow
This is my first contribution to the “Keeping the Faith” column. It is my honor and pleasure to be part of this great community.
Last month, we celebrated Chanukah. The holiday has truly evolved over the last 30 years – it has become more open, much more visible, with large, outdoor Menorahs in public spaces. This is largely attributed to the leadership of the great Chabad Rebbe, who encouraged the public display of Chanukah. I am personally involved in such public celebrations in Stoughton, Easton and Braintree, and I continuously receive appreciations from Jews and non-Jews alike.
It has been a process for Jews to be comfortable with our public display of Judaism. The Jewish community has had a tough time coming to terms with bringing Judaism out of the closet. The Holocaust and subsequent anti-Semitism have pushed us to stay private. But thanks to the Chabad Rebbe’s call for us to be bold and proud of our Jewish heritage, and the positive response by our fellow non-Jewish neighbors, there should be no apprehension in displaying our Jewishness.
This being said, leads me to a discussion that has been on many minds lately; the rise of anti- Semitism. According to statistics from the Anti-Defamation League, there has been a big surge in anti-Semitic incidences. The Pittsburgh “Tree of Life” Synagogue massacre is the most recent example. I am constantly asked why? What have we Jews done to deserve such hatred?
I must say that, especially in our western countries, the vast number of non-Jews are very friendly and supportive to the Jewish community. This was evident by the outpouring of support and response to the Pittsburgh Massacre, and the participation at the many local Chanukah Menorah celebrations. However, I think that there is a very loud minority who harbor anti-Semitism, and there is much misinformation and ignorance that fosters anti-Semitic sentiments.
And for us Jews I must say, the true answer to anti-Semitism must be very different than the conventional response. True, Jews must stand up and defend themselves, but that alone will not eliminate it. Jews must inform and promote the truths of Judaism, but that alone won’t eliminate it either. Anti-Semitism is a natural phenomenon of thousands of years. It did not start by Jews and will not end by Jews. It is part of the natural order as designed by G-d and as inscribed in the Bible: “And Esau will hate Jacob.”
Scripture continues: “When he will rise, you will fall, and when you will rise, he will fall.” Jews need to rise to the occasion, Jews need to rise to our truths and to our roots, and only then will “HE” fall. Each person needs to do the right thing, every person must lead by example in promoting goodness and kindness, to be strong in faith and connected to our heritage. By doing so, G-d will respond in making the world more upright, and the winds of peace and calm will prevail.
The same message is derived from how we celebrate Chanukah. The story of Chanukah is about the Jews going to war to liberate Jerusalem and the Temple in year 139 BCE. But upon entering the Temple, they could not find enough olive oil to light the Menorah except for one night. By a miracle, the oil lasted for eight days.
The celebration of Chanukah is not expressed by triumph and victory to remember the war, rather by lighting candles to remember the miracle of the oil. This powerful message tells us that while it is true that we must stand up to defend, never the less, our true strength is light, goodness and kindness.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Town of Stoughton, the leaders and members of the many departments of our town, for supporting and participating in our community Chanukah celebrations both at town square and at Cobb Corner.