Bringing Light to a Particularly Dark Holiday Season

December 11, 2023
Shira Preis

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Class of 2025

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As the weather cools and the scent in the air shifts from pumpkin to peppermint, people worldwide start gearing up for the holiday season. Whether it be hanging the lights around a Christmas tree or blasting Mariah Carey songs, almost everyone is excited for the upcoming season. However, for the Jewish people this holiday season, instead of celebrating the light, many feel a heavy weight on their hearts and minds.

Chanukkah is the celebration of the lights for the Jewish people. On the darkest nights of the year, Jews around the world gather around the Menorah to tell the story of Chanukkah, spin the dreidel, dance the Hora, and light the candles. Yet, this year, there is a question of whether celebrating the holiday is appropriate.

On October 7th, the terrorist organization, Hamas, attacked Israel from the Gaza strip. Since that time period, over 240 Jewish hostages have been kidnapped in Gaza. Those kidnapped include many young boys and girls who were ripped away from their families, including a 10-month-old baby. As the Jewish world mourns over those kidnapped and murdered, it is hard to envision participating in one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar.

However, I think it is actually a perfect time to celebrate the holiday. The story of Chanukkah revolves around the persistence of the Jewish people in Israel. When the Greeks tried to take the Israelites’ land and make them slaves, they assembled a small army that miraculously defeated the larger Greek one. The Jews have always been people who told and passed down their stories. As the war continues, sharing stories of strength and resilience is especially important for morale. 

One of the most profound examples of this to me is the picture of a Menorah in front of a Nazi flag. On the back of the photo is written, “The flag says ‘death to Judaism,’ the light says ‘Judaism will live forever.’” The Menorah and photo now hang in Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, as a reminder that even when darkness surrounds the Jewish people, there will be light. As darkness emerges and antisemitism rises, the light from our Menorahs will always answer back with the persistence of the Jewish people.

For many, the holiday season is spent in the arms of family. While this year may present a different scenario for Jews across the world who are kidnapped or serving, honoring the memory of Chanukkah is especially important. When we light the candles on all eight nights, it serves as a reminder of why fighting antisemitism is so important. Judaism has so many beautiful celebrations that deserve to live on. No one can take away our culture, traditions, or love for religion. Never again is now, and the best way we can prove it is by taking ownership and pride in our culture. As the holiday season approaches, the Jewish light will not be dimmed.

Shira Preis is a BBG who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and she loves to dance and write in her free time.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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