This is my 20th Hanukkah as a father. While this year’s family celebrations have had all the necessary parts – homemade latkes, a big family dinner, and Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, it will also be accompanied by a sadness wrapped up in the second menorah that we have lit each night for the hostages still being held in Gaza.
I became a father in 2004 and in 2007. As I looked into each of my daughters’ eyes, I could only imagine all that they would see, do, and experience in their lifetimes. I of course knew it wouldn’t always be sunshine and butterflies, but as I held them, I recall being overcome with a renewed sense of optimism. How sad it is now that when I look at my amazing daughters, I am often overcome by a sense of dread.
On October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, killing more than 1,200, injuring over 4,000, kidnapping more than 240, and committing rape and brutal atrocities along the way. As much as Hamas’ murderous rampage shook me personally and professionally, it’s what has followed those attacks that have shaken me to my core as I think about my daughters’ futures.
Today elected officials, “social justice warriors,” religious leaders, teachers, and college and high school students celebrate Hamas’ attacks and openly and brazenly call for the destruction of Israel, all without fear of ramifications. Just days after the October 7 rampage, I saw in downtown Chicago at a Palestinian rally a sign that read “With blood and spirit, we will redeem you Palestine.” Recently, Chicago Alderwoman Rosanna Rodriguez Tweeted and stood by the battle cry, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” At a meeting of a Midwest university’s student government, a young female student held aloft a sign that read, among other things, “It’s not terrorism, it’s resistance.” Just three examples over less than a month of people openly calling for and celebrating the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews, past, present, and future.
A story has emerged from Hamas’ onslaught of a father and child being burnt alive bound together by wire. I try to imagine what that father did to try to protect his child from the pain he could not stop and the fate they could not escape. Not a day has gone by since I heard this story that I don’t think about that father and how alone and helpless he must have felt as he died holding his dying child.
That is but one example of what is being celebrated on the streets of Chicago, on the internet, on college campuses, and across the globe. And this is why I find myself not full of optimism and hope for my daughters, but rather fear and worry. As the Nazis expanded their power in the 1930-40s, European Jewish life was constricted until it was annihilated. There were racial laws restricting how Jews could live, travel, work, etc.; then came the ghettos wherein Jews were forced to live; and then came the death camps where they were exterminated. A slowly tightening circle of pain they could not stop and a fate they could not escape.
I am not saying that I live in 1930-40s Europe, but I am saying that I cannot escape a sense of tightening around me. Local politicians calling for the extermination of Israel, the need to hire a massive security presence to protect vigils for kidnapped Israelis, Jews afraid to wear publicly signs of their Judaism, college campuses where Jewish students are forced to shelter in place, and high schools where teachers teach that Israel is genocidal and say nothing of Hamas’ brutality.
At times like this, I want nothing more than to hug my girls and tell them that it will be alright and that they can achieve all their natural abilities will permit. Instead, I fear the possibility of a pain I cannot stop and a fate we cannot escape.