We, the Jewish people, are a people that love our symbolism.
We love pomegranates that symbolize fertility and growth, and apples which signify the beginning of a new year. We love our flag above all else that was designed to be a combination of the Star of David with the stripes of a tallit.
Seemingly simple signs, like a mezuzah on the door, or a kippa on a head, or a Star of David necklace around our neck are some of the ways we exercise our quiet yet proud and unapologetic proclamation that we are a Jew.
One of my favorite photos is an old one. It was taken somewhere in Europe in the early 1930s of a Chanukiyah – a Menorah – on the eighth day of Chanukah, ready to be lit, sitting on a window sill. Outside of that window, on the opposite side of the street, is a Nazi flag hanging on a large building. At the bottom of the photo is the caption: “our light will outlast their flag. Kiel, Germany 1931”
This photo is gorgeous. Black and white, it’s atmospheric and the lighting is gorgeous – almost like a Vermeer painting. It’s also equally terrifying and raises a lot of questions.
How on earth could that family light their Menorah opposite what is obviously a Nazi building? Are they crazy? Do they have a death wish? Are they not concerned for the safety of their loved ones?
I also look at it and I think about the bravery, the defiance, and the courage it took for whoever that was to light their Menorah and put it in their window. Especially opposite that building. The curtains are clearly drawn – there’s no hiding that Menorah. It’s a virtual “*$#@ you” to those who stood for that despicable black, white, and red swastika flag waving in the wind across the road. And the caption is not just a hopeful comment or a wish, but a clear statement.
Bold, and prophetic. And still so relevant, especially now.
In reality, it’s just a Chanukiyah on a windowsill – nothing drastic and nothing loud – but the symbolism of it, in its entirety, is everything. Everything.
Whoever they were, they are heroes in my eyes, especially because I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and I’m all too aware of the horrors of what my family had to endure during that horrific time in history.
Yesterday I came across a new initiative on Facebook called Project Menorah. It’s described as a grassroots movement that encourages non-Jews to light a Menorah in their windows in fellowship with their Jewish neighbors who might be afraid of doing so this year because of the rise of antisemitism.
I thought it was a beautiful initiative. The idea of spreading light is always a good one, but whoever came up with this obviously has a good soul. Because this is about more than just standing with the Jewish people – it’s about joining us in this mivtzah of lighting up the world with goodness, and positivity, and has the added benefit of helping their Jewish neighbors feel safe. What a Kiddush Hashem.
It also saddened me that there needs to be a Project Menorah to begin with.
No one here in Israel is afraid to light their Menorah.
While I sat in my safe room last night because Hamas decided it would be fun to bombard us with hundreds of rockets, I thought about the things that I AM afraid of since this war started:
I’m afraid of losing more soldiers – we’ve lost enough.
I’m afraid that the outside world will pressure us into another ceasefire before our army can finish their important work.
I’m afraid for those still being kept hostage in Gaza and for what they must be enduring.
I’m afraid of what the released Palestinian prisoners, who are all serious criminals, will do now that they are out of prison and free to terrorize us once again.
I’m afraid of hearing more horrific stories of abuse of both the hostages and those who were massacred on October 7th.
I’m afraid of the craziness that has gripped the western world and the stench of antisemitism that is rising at an alarming rate.
I’m afraid for my family that is still living in the Diaspora.
I’m afraid of the lack of humanity of so so many and what that says about this world’s future.
I’m afraid of the collective trauma of this nation and the lengths we’ll need to go to heal – and if that’s even possible.
But I’m NOT afraid to light our Menorah.
And maybe instead of focusing on the things I AM afraid of, I need to focus on the things I’m NOT afraid of.
For those of you in the Diaspora whose neighborhoods are not participating in Project Menorah, and are afraid to light your Menorah – don’t be. Please don’t take off your Star of David necklace, and don’t remove your mezuzah or take your kippah off your head. Do all of it and even more. Because if you stop, they win.
And we can’t let that happen.
Beef up your home security and put some cameras up around your home. Yes, it’s scary to have to do those things and it puts a heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach. And yes, safety is so important.
But so is your right to be a proud Jew, no matter where you live.
And when you think that you can’t or that you’re too afraid, think about that photo of that Menorah in Europe in the 1930s. Think of that family lighting those eight candles at nightfall and think of that light emanating from that window and reflecting opposite a Nazi flag. Take strength from that image and let’s make this Chanukah the brightest one ever.