Next week, like so many in our community and around the world, my wife and I will gather around the window of our home and light the Hanukkah candles with our children, thinking about what it might mean to shine our lights into what can feel like a very dark world right now.
Hanukkah is a story of Jewish courage and resilience, the need to fight back against those who hate us, our tradition, and our ways of life. I think about the world in which our children are growing up and wonder whether they can safely and freely express their Jewish identities that have been hallmarks of our democratic society. Especially now, Hanukkah reminds us that we need to defend ourselves against antisemitism, just as we will fight against other forms of racism, bigotry, and hate, because everyone deserves to live safe, secure, and dignified lives.
And Hanukkah also celebrates the renewal of vibrant Jewish culture, the reimagination of Jewish life, and the creation of proud, purposeful, and joyful Jewish communities.
What better place to celebrate culture and creativity than at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston? Last night, after a two-year hiatus, hundreds of people gathered at the MFA for a one-of-a-kind, Jewish Arts Collaborative Hanukkah celebration. I was invited to offer a blessing for our community, and it was moving to look out at so many smiling faces. There is so much pain in the world, but despite all we’ve been through together, the MFA was filled with joy and hope.
For me, that joy and sense of hopefulness continued into this morning as I visited the middle school of Solomon Schechter of Greater Boston.
I spoke with students and saw how the dynamic mission and values of Schechter live out through its teaching and learning. Leaving the building, I thought back to the warmth I felt at the MFA, and for the second time in less than 24 hours, I was inspired by the energy and luminance of our community, especially our next generation. This is our future, and our future is bright.
The Hanukkah story of bravery and perseverance is more relevant than ever as we face a new and profoundly upsetting wave of Jew hate. I hope the message of this holiday resonates loudly as we create a joyful and resilient community. May our unique lights shine out into the world, proudly, for everyone to see.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights),
Rabbi Marc Baker