Hanukkah, Light and Resistance
by Lazora Jordan
This piece is taken from the dvar Torah delivered at the inaugural meeting of the Jews of Color and Allies Advisory group.
As we begin to celebrate Hanukkah, I am comforted by the themes of creating light in the midst of darkness, rededication to the sacred and resisting assimilation.
This year has been a dark wilderness for many of us. Our collective complacency about living in a country where access to adequate health care, equitable distribution of wealth, protection of labor rights and righting the wrongs of our nation’s racism was shaken by stark reminders of the fragmentation these injustices have left behind.
For many of us, it is challenging to enter into the darkest time of the year in the midst of one that has seemed darker than many of its predecessors. As human beings, we struggle to see the hidden sparks of Divine light interspersed throughout the world. This year, many of us have found it harder to remember the presence of those sparks as we look out at the brokenness within our country and beyond. Yet as Jews, we are reminded of our responsibility to restore holiness by repairing that brokenness, ensuring that these sparks of Divine light are no longer sequestered in fragmentation.
As we begin our celebration of Hanukkah, we commemorate our ancestors’ act of restoring the holiness of the temple, and we ask ourselves what it means to resist assimilation. In a country where European ancestry places the majority of American Jews within the upper echelon of our nation’s racial hierarchy, resisting assimilation means rejecting this hierarchy altogether in favor of eliminating racial injustice. Our country’s inheritance of European colonialism tells us that those with white skin and European ancestry should be centered in every part of society. Resisting assimilation means not just acknowledging the diversity of non-Euro-descended members of our global Jewish family, but de-centering Euro-descendents and the white hegemony that pervades our Jewish communities.
Each year, we reflect on what it means to hold a rededication to the sacred during the darkest season of the secular calendar. There will be times when the task of repairing the brokenness of racial inequity and inequality will seem daunting, if not impossible. As we light the shamash on the nights ahead, may we remember the miracle that one light can pave the way for the restoration of holiness in the midst of darkness, even when it seems impossible.
This Dvar Torah was published in Evolve: https://evolve.reconstructingjudaism.org/chanukahlightresistance/