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Hanukkah: Light Transforming Darkness

By Safe Havens' Co-Director, Alyson Morse-Katzman

Hanukkah is a wonderful holiday, a holiday full of hope. While it is not a major Jewish holiday, many people are familiar with the basics. Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days and nights in the darkest part of winter. The word Hanukkah means “to dedicate,” reminding us of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the triumph of the Maccabees.

In the second century BCE, the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to the service of G‑d.

When the Jews sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a small amount of oil. They lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days—the miracle of Hanukkah.

Because we are talking about oil, Hanukkah celebrations include delicious foods that are fried in oil—doughnuts (sufganyot) and potato latkes (pancakes) are among the most popular. But at the core of Hanukkah is how light transforms darkness.

We light the Hanukkah candles at dusk, facing the menorah out to the street so that all can see the light, the hope. The light of the Hanukkah candles encourages us to never be afraid to stand up for what is right, like the Maccabees defending their faith. The holiday teaches us to shine outward, to bring more of our own light into the world. And as we add a little more light to the world each night (by adding a candle), Hanukkah reminds us to look forward.

Working at Safe Havens, Hanukkah takes on a special meaning for me. For people who are experiencing abuse, life can be very dark. But we can all be the Hanukkah candles, bringing light into the lives of victims and survivors, bringing them hope, resources, and referrals.

This year, 159 Jewish clergy in Massachusetts have become a light for survivors of abuse. By signing on to the Many Voices, One Message campaign, these rabbis, cantors, and clergy-to-be have taken a collective stand against domestic violence. For six years, Jewish clergy of Massachusetts have joined together in saying that they will not tolerate domestic abuse in the Jewish community.

For survivors of domestic abuse, this message serves as a powerful statement of support and encouragement to reach out for help. For the entire Jewish community, this statement conveys the message that clergy in our community are willing to offer support and assistance.

Each name is a little bit of light that is so desperately needed; shining out in the darkness, a beacon to all that the darkness of abuse can be dispelled by taking a stand.

Thank you to these 159 clergy and wishing them, and ALL who celebrate, a Hanukkah Sameach!

Learn more about this important campaign HERE.

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