The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — encourages Jews to take heart from the Chanukah menorah and stand proud as a Jew in the face of antisemitic oppression. The rising trend of antisemitism has rightly caused alarm among many Jews. We live in a time in which someone may be attacked on the street simply for looking like a Jew. Some might react by hiding their Jewish identity. This reasonable response will only make things worse. We must confront antisemitism both directly and indirectly.
As we celebrate Chanukah this week, we remember the ancient Hellenists who persecuted proud Jews and attempted to legislate the Jewish religion out of existence. The Maccabees rose up to fight against the persecution. They would not be forced into hiding, ashamed of their Jewishness. Instead they wore their Judaism proudly and fought against their oppressors.
Today the Jewish community around the world is again experiencing an assault on our religion and our identity as Jews. Not only have antisemitic attacks risen in the past few years, antisemitic rhetoric is now loudly voiced by some cultural icons. The same canards that have been voiced by anti-Jewish agitators throughout the ages are now regularly discussed in the mainstream and social media. These are scary times.
The question arises how Jews in America and around the world can combat this rise in antisemitism and assault on our religion, heritage and people. Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “we have to start by being proud Jews. We cannot hide our allegiance because that gives immediate victory to the haters. We must embrace with love our fellow Jews, strengthening Jewish observance and the practice of Torah and mitzvos. This can only be achieved when each of us leads by example. We must leave our comfort zones and reach out to our neighbors, friends and family. We should engage them and make them proud of their Jewish identity and heritage. We must also engage in personal reflection about our own commitment to Jewish identity and observance. In which commandments can we each, as individuals, improve?
“Chanukah is a festival that is surrounded by the light and the warmth of the menorah. Let the Chanukah lights give us the energy to revitalize our Torah study and mitzvah observance and the courage as a people to persevere. Collectively, as individuals banding together, the nation of Israel will succeed. May we heed the clarion call and defeat this disease of antisemitism. Through these transformative actions, may we merit the coming of Mashiach.”