The most horrific violence against a Jewish community in the US occurred on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. On that day, a violent man took his violent beliefs and intentionally murdered eleven Jews as they gathered for prayers in a synagogue.
Four police officers and two others were wounded in the attack. Our shock at the violence was followed by the question of who will stand with us now. This question was answered wonderfully, graciously, and powerfully by the great number of people, some friends and others strangers, who came out in a glorious gesture of support at the many vigils that were held that week and at the regular Shabbat services on the following weekend.
We’ve learned that the best response to hate is to ask, “How can we be better present for each other?” and to invite others to contribute their ideas to this noble inquiry. In this way we can develop more effective techniques with which to respond to hate, grow connections with allies, and expand our mastery of fearlessness. The more we are targeted by haters due to our faith and identity as Jewish and LGBTQ, the more attached we become to them and thus the more we are inspired to celebrate them. We will never be silent in the face of hate.
The upcoming Hanukkah holiday wonderfully captures this sentiment, as it commemorates the struggle of our people under Greek rule who were denied permission to practice their faith. The actual holiday is a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple in 139 BCE, which had been desecrated by the invading soldiers. But Hanukkah is much more than a remembrance of a military victory; our sages attached this pronouncement from the prophet Zachariah to remind us what is important, “Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit, says the God of Hosts”. In this way Hanukkah is understood as a festival that celebrates the victory of the human spirit and the universal desire for peace.
We will be celebrating this delightful holiday on Sunday, Dec. 9, complete with latkes, donuts, games and prizes. We will once again re-dedicate ourselves to having joy and delight in our faith and our identity.