Hanukkah 5778: A Miracle of Dedication & Faith

0 Comments 14 December 2017

Below please find a Hanukkah message from Rabbis for Human Rights’ Chair Rabbi Ed Rettig.

Dear Friends of Rabbis for Human Rights,

We live in dark times.

The forces that drive anti-democratic feeling, supremacism, censorship and discrimination have increased their power in Israel and in the United States, the two countries where 80% of the world’s Jews live. Loud voices seek to silence criticism of oppressive government initiatives. Certainly, every period feels its own pressures. You may feel a tendency to think that we exaggerate. But no. Initiatives to clip the wings of government critics are afoot today on a scale we have not seen in two generations of public activity. For the first time in the history of Rabbis for Human Rights, a bank sought to withhold contributions sent to us from overseas. We fear this abuse of power was inspired by the current political atmosphere, where attacks on human rights organizations are regularly undertaken by government officials in the highest positions.

Daily our staff face harassment, particularly through the Internet where social media provide a cesspool-like environment in which every bigot seems to feel empowered to spew his or her hate. The absence of a credible peace process, coupled with flamboyant gestures by the American, Israeli and Palestinian governments generates unhealthy dynamics of increasingly unrestrained enforcement of the occupation, with its inevitable increases in oppressive measures and limitations on human rights. Arabs (and, to a certain extent, Jews) who live in the inherently undemocratic system of occupation face ever-growing challenges to some of their most basic human entitlements. Israel, once one of the most egalitarian nations on Earth, has become one of the most unequal. The top twenty percent of Israelis live in a different economy from the rest of us. Similar policies to those that have so undermined economic justice in the United States have generated polarization of wealth in Israel on a scale we have never seen.

Which brings me to Hanukkah. This is, of course, the holiday of lights. “We came to banish the darkness. In our hands is light and flame” proclaims the Hanukkah song. But on a deeper level, the miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of dedication and faith. The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication.” Dedication is what we saw from our staff when, faced with an illegal withholding of funds by our bank, they went for over a month without receiving their salaries. Dedication is what our times demand. Dedication can create miracles. We try to imagine the feelings of the Maccabees who found just one remaining jug of oil. We know that it was going to last for the full eight days that it would take to make more, but they had no way of knowing this. The Maccabees had faith in the justice of their fight and through that faith they found the moral strength to rededicate themselves. It is this kind of faith in the cause and dedication to the struggle that we ask of you. Now, more than ever. Whatever you gave in years past, this year in the face of the discouraging condition of democracy in the American and Israeli democracies, give more! Our work together today as human rights defenders is more crucial than at any time in living memory. Your generous donation will help Israel revive Jewish traditions of kvod ha’adam, human dignity, and the recognition that human beings are created b’tselem, in the Divine’s own image.

The song continues, “each of us is a small light, and all together we create a stalwart radiance.”

Be faithful to the Jewish cause of human rights, be dedicated despite the darkness of our times, and together let us build that great radiance, an Israel that will truly be a light unto the nations as David Ben-Gurion envisioned it!

Happy Hanukkah!

Rabbi Ed Rettig
Rabbis for Human Rights


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