Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Pearl Harbor and Chanukah- What to Live For?

This week marks two unrelated but devastating military attacks which reverberated for generations of survivors – the attack on Pearl Harbor and Chanukah. In each instance, the respective armies fought with dedication and heroism – the question is what were they fighting for? At its core, I would argue it is the same – the survival of the family.

Pearl Harbor

According to the article, The Path to Pearl Harbor, “ on December 7, 1941, Japan staged a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, decimating the US Pacific Fleet. When Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, America found itself in a global war. “

A short description of the battle may be viewed in this video:

All told, the attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships.

As referenced in the video, this day of infamy as declared by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is the subject of memorials every year and is a rallying cry for those for whom achieving peace in the lasting sense is a mission.


Just about every Jewish child is raised on the symbols of Chanukah, spinning the dreidel and lighting the menorah and celebrations with Chanukah Gelt and traditional latkes or doughnuts. But the actual military victory and the history is not always mentioned in it full detail. In an excerpt from The Complete Story of Chanukah by Dr Nissan Mindel, full descriptions are given detailing the miraculous victories leading up to the Maccabees’ return to Jerusalem to liberate it. And prominent mention is given to the Maccabees’ entrance into the Temple and clearing it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. And the culmination of Judah and his followers is building a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 3622.

What Were They Fighting For?

Both the Pearl Harbor attack and the military Chanukah battles demonstrate the terrible cost of war monetarily and more with the human tally as thousands of lives were sacrificed. The real question is what is the core value which is worth fighting for in each instance?

To me, the core value was preservation of the family – in all its dimensions. In the case of Pearl Harbor, one has to bemoan the brave servicemen killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor who never had a chance of get married and start a family. And in the Chanukah story, not only the physical deaths were staggering, but also another death occurred during those dark days – a spiritual death.

Chanukah means Education

In Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin’s article What Does Chanukah Actually Mean, he states that some point out that Chanukah is related to the word chinuch (חינוך), “education.” And our history shows that the Greeks issued decrees against Jewish education intended to destroy the fabric of our family starting with the prohibition of brit milah. Rabbi Shurpin mentions that the Lubavitcher Rebbe often stressed the unique connection between Chanukah and education.

The Greeks Knew the Secret to Our Survival

The Greeks knew that by attacking our education they were destroying the heart of soul of the Jewish DNA. The antidote of course has been to elevate Jewish education to its prominent role and as such perpetuate our destiny.

If the Pearl Harbor attack and Chanukah demonstrate, you can physically kill people, but you cannot destroy the spirit and determination to survive. One way to memorialize the valiant fighting to preserve the family unit displayed in both geographic arenas of warfare, is to commit to those educational forums whose values are family preservation.

Marriage Education is a Value worth Fighting For

There is significant positive evidence on the effectiveness of Marriage Education, so the logic of bringing Marriage Education to the forefront of Israeli culture, both as individual units and as citizens is compelling. In addition to reducing divorces and the wear and tear on couples and their children, Marriage Education brings a range of compelling byproducts of increased productivity, happiness and success of our children, as well as for their parents.

An Answer to the “Why Marriage Education” is important:

  • Teaches couples communication skills and principles associated with a healthy relationship
  • Identifies characteristics of healthy marriages
  • Identifies characteristics of unhealthy marriages
  • Provides the opportunity to slow down, explore, and talk more about marriage and the couples’ personal goals for their marriage
  • Provides Individualized assessments of potential relationship flashpoints
  • Identifies of predictable relationship challenges and skills for dealing with them
  • Identifies of impact of child rearing on the marital relationship and skills for coping with these challenges

We have an opportunity to act to preserve our family units and to give our next generations the resounding response to Why Our Lives are Worth Battling for in the hopes that we can achieve on the home front what we never want to have to face on the battle front – the Victory for Our Peoplehood.

May we never face again the Pearl Harbors and the wars of the Maccabees and may we continue to kindle the lights of Chanukah so they burn bright in our homes this year and until the Moshiah comes.

Consider Joining Project Chayei Sarah and making your imprint on the legacy of the family.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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