As we start the month of Kislev we begin the celebratory countdown to the first night of Hanukkah on December 16. We have a calendar full of wonderful events in store for you. See the line-up below.
I've noticed a trend with the way the media has mainstreamed Hanukkah as a new "Americanized" holiday, like Halloween or even the much-diminished Easter which has been desanctified and reduced to a children's event at which toddlers gobble chocolate bunnies.
If you were not aware of this trend to secularize and universalize just take a peek at the way Hanukkah has been given a secular overhaul by animated TV shows such as the Simpsons, Rugrats, and South Park.
Hanukkah has ironically transformed from a story of the struggle of the Maccabees who resist assimilation into Greek culture to now become part of the larger American inclusive narrative. It joins other minority groups' celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day which have become mainstream. American Pop culture values a simple, non-religious and commercial message which ultimately spurs us into many visits to the mall.
I guess this process isn't all that surprising. We Jews started to immigrate to the USA in the 1880s as a result of the Russian government's official policy of driving out its 6 million Jews. Ultimately, over 2.5 million of us came to North America. After almost six generations in the US we are thoroughly American, and that is a good thing. Anti-Semitism in the US is at an all-time low.
But underneath these trends is another fact which does not give me comfort. According to Pew Research Center almost 20% of all Americans under age 30 now consider themselves to be secular, with no religion in their lives. The message of Hanukkah is not secular, though it is universal. It is fiercely and tenaciously Jewish. It not only demands that the majority culture respect the uniqueness of the minority, it reminds us to remain distinct, proud and identified in our Jewishness.
My message is a simple one; it is the core message of the Hanukkah story itself. Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary fame, captured the idea with his now classic song whose refrain is , "Don't Let the Light Go Out"
Steven L. Silver
Click here for the Candle Blessings and songs http://www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/hanukkah