A Response To “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah” From The New York Times

I read Michael David Lukas’s article in the New York Times, The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah (1 Dec) with a sense of sadness for him.

Sadness that he considers Jews fighting for the right to live their lives in their own traditions, some kind of “religious fundamentalism.”

Sadness that he defines true Jewish heroes of history as nothing more than a “group of violent fundamentalists.”

Sadness that while proud Jews sing songs about our heroic Maccabees, he’ll be saying a prayer for those Jews who fought against our traditions, against our way of life, and quite frankly against our very future.

He seems to offer a reason for celebrating Hanukkah as the Jewish answer to Christmas. “We have to celebrate something,” he says. “It’s all about beating Santa.”

What an incredibly sad assessment of the meaning of Hanukkah. What he clearly fails to grasp is that, despite often falling within close proximity to each other, Hanukkah and Christmas have nothing to do with one another.

Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, or what they call their savior, while Hanukkah is the battle of Jews to have the right to live their own lives in their own traditions – a right they had to fight for against an oppressive regime who wanted to forcibly assimilate them and wipe out those traditions.

Michael David Lukas may not like to hear it, but the greatest danger facing Jews today, and especially in America more so than anywhere else, is assimilation.

It’s not Islamic terrorism. It’s not Iran and their nuclear ambitions. It’s not the real violent fundamentalists on the left, or the crazy extremists on the right.

It’s assimilation. It’s intermarriage. It’s the very fact that he “agonized over the question of circumcision” which forms the oldest Jewish tradition of all.

Whether he chooses to believe it or not, Jewish continuity in America and in the diaspora is under threat. With increasing rates of assimilation and more and more intermarriage, it will become harder and harder to remain Jewish in the future.

Children born without a Jewish mother are not considered Jews according to Jewish law and those in a mixed marriage with a Jewish mother, will struggle to maintain their Jewish identity if their parents fail to instil in them any sense of Jewish pride or historical understanding of where they came from.

Celebrating Hanukkah is not about “beating Santa,” but about being proud of your Jewish heritage and about maintaining your Jewish identity in spite of the many people who either want to rip it away, or even worse – allow it to fade away instead. It’s about standing up for you rights and your traditions and your culture and your history and your religion.

The Maccabees fought not only for themselves, but for the future of the Jewish people, for if they were to have lost the battle, then Jews would have faded away too, assimilated into other nations and lost forever in history.

If Michael David Lukas fails to grasp that fundamental truth, then quite frankly that is the greatest tragedy of all.

About the Author
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.