What would happen to your Jewish identity if you became Governor of Florida tomorrow? Would you consider changing your name so that it didn’t sound ‘too Jewish’ like many others have?
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the Lt. Govenor of Florida, Carlos Lopez- Canterra is actually 100% Jewish. Governor Scott told us on December 17, when the two of them visited our Shul to light the Chanukah Menorah.
But another one of our boys made it to the second most influential position in the world, probably the most influential Jew who ever lived: Joseph. He is appointed Governor of all of Egypt, the world’s super power at the time. Having been sold into slavery by his brothers after they tried to kill him, their meeting is pretty dramatic. But amazingly, whilst Joseph recognizes his brothers, they don’t recognize him!
‘It didn’t occur to them that their brother, a fellow Jew, could possibly be both a Jew and a politician at the same time’ says the Rebbe. ‘The paradox was too great. Yet Joseph managed. He was both a devoted Jew and a very revered Governor at the same time’.
Perhaps this is why we celebrate Chanukah whenever we read this portion of Joseph’s Governorship. On Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the oil. Far from being just a preschool play material, the message of the oil holds profound and majestic truths deeply relevant to us American Jews today.
In my invocation before Govenor Rick Scott’s Menorah Lighting at our New Shul on Wednesday I said these words: ‘This Holiday is all about the oil. Oil has an interesting paradox in that it seeps into all nooks and crannies on the one hand yet always floats to the top when mixed with other liquids. This paradox represents the effort it takes to be an American Jew. On the one hand, Jews in America have always strived to perform in every sector of society and the economy. But the Chanukah oil reminds us that when we do so, there is no need to lose our identity as Jews. Like oil that always remains distinct, the Jew can always remain proud of his identity and heritage as a Jew!’
‘After, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a naturalized citizen from South Africa to this Great Country, it’s that Americans respect those who respect themselves!’
This is the message of Chanukah- that even whilst on the tony Country Club Golf Course or in the most influential of corporate positions, we proudly retain and celebrate our identity as Jews.
Indeed, Governor Rick Scott’s lighting the Chanukah Menorah, the symbol of religious freedom, in our new Shul was truly an endorsement of this message. From both sides of the political spectrum, Governor Rick Scott and his Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez Canterra (who is 100% Jewish) and That the Great State of Florida is proud to endorse and support our identity and observances as Jews.
The courageous message of Chanukah was endorsed from both sides of the political spectrum: Republican Governor Rick Scott and his Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez Canterra as well as Democratic State Senator Abruzzo. The symbolism is profound: the very same freedoms that the authorities opposed in Chanukah times, the Great State of Florida is proud to endorse and validate.
All we need to do is to make sure to internalize the message of the oil and the leadership of Joseph, to live proudly as Jews wherever we are and never to be afraid!