(JTA) — As a young child I often wondered why people light the hanukkiah, or Hanukkah menorah, in so many different places. Some light the candles on their front porches and driveways, some in the streets, others at in city parks, and a very select few even light candles at the White House.
But with the recent rise of antisemitism, some only shine their lights in the inner chambers of their home, a place that feels safe and secure. As the Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, warned centuries ago, the mitzvah of persumei nisa, or publicizing the miracle (Talmud Shabbat 23b), was contingent on the dangers of institutional antisemitism and our enemies’ desire to extinguish the Jewish people’s light. (Shulchan Aruch, O.CH, Hanukkah 3:5)
In America today, our democracy faces a similar problem. The barrage of threats to our civil society, increased polarization and a heightened threat from domestic extremists are pushing the light away, to the detriment of us all.
Many Americans today feel that they cannot express their true identities because of how others might perceive or treat them. The fear of rejection, the fear of violence, or worse, cause too many to hide their light, acquiescing to the oppressor. Hanukkah literally means to rededicate, rebuild, reconstruct — our institutions and our selves. We are to fix that which has been broken so we can reimagine what is possible for the future. During this festival of lights, we are reminded to embrace our unique identities, regardless of what oppressive systems might dictate.
As a proud American Jew whose ancestors on one side fought in the American Revolution while other ancestors were enslaved on American soil, and as an Orthodox rabbi working to build communities of the 21st century that work for everybody, I understand the way systems of oppression conspire to extinguish our lights.
Systems of oppression are often described using “the four I’s”: ideological, interpersonal, institutional, internalized. The Greco-Syrians of the Hanukkah story opposed the Jewish people’s relationship to God and the Torah (ideological), forced the Jewish leaders to coerce their loved ones to publicly defame the Torah (interpersonal), renamed Jerusalem “Antiochus” and decried that Jews remove their mezuzahs, sacrifice pigs and write above the door of their houses “there is no God in this place” (institutional). Finally, they caused many Jews to embrace the ways of their oppressors (internalized).
That’s why I believe that just as the Jewish people need a Hanukkah to usher in a time for light in the face of much darkness, America needs a Hanukkah, too.
With ideological and culture wars pinning social groups against one another, many search in the darkness for even a few Maccabees to remind Americans what our democratic seal still stands for.
In the year 164 BCE Antiochus of Greece breached the doors of the Jerusalem Temple, defiling the sacred, leaving but one flask of oil. Though not a direct parallel, in the year 2021 C.E., a dangerous mob of white supremacists breached the doors of the United States Capitol building, defiling democracy and sending defenders running for their lives.
America needs a Hanukkah because our light still burns strong and we must recommit to the democratic ideals of our nation.
America needs a Hanukkah so that when we come across darkness and hate in the media, we can combat that rhetoric with language of justice, love and openness.
America needs a Hanukkah because when walls and windows are breached and broken, whether in 2021 or 2,200 years ago, it is hard to believe one would ever see light again.
The Alter Rebbe of Lubavitch taught: “A little light dispels a lot of darkness.” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
For thousands of years, lighting the hanukkiah was an act of protest, reclaiming who we are, reclaiming our stories and rededicating ourselves to the past lights, and the ultimate restoration of the menorah’s light in a rebuilt Jerusalem. A time when systems and structures exist where all people feel like they can bring their light, and that they belong. As we approach the winter months and the year ahead, let us remember there is always light, and we must let ours shine.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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