Being Outstanding By Standing Out

My phone recently highlighted a photo memory of my son Yonatan playing on the University of Vermont’s Roller Hockey team, a team which travelled to participate in tournaments against other colleges. The photo was from a tournament wherein they played a team from Yeshiva University and reminded me of an amusing encounter which took place that Yonatan shared.

While waiting for a faceoff to take place, Yonatan decided to do a little “chirping” at the opposing center and to surprise him by doing so in Hebrew. As he began to speak in Hebrew the opposing player interrupted him saying, “Dude, your name is on your jersey and you’re wearing number 18. We already figured out that you’re Jewish!”

What struck me as I recalled the story was the simple and essential truth which it captured about Hanukah past and present. At the core of the conflict amongst the Jews of the Maccabean era was their desire to live as Jews, and their willingness to be recognized as Jews, as opposed to those who wished to hide all traces of their Jewish identity and assimilate into the greater Hellenistic society. Throughout Jewish history being identifiable as Jews has not always been a matter of choice; at times being marked by the outside world, at others being required to negate our identity to enter the broader society.

Our ability to self-identify is a reflection of our comfort with ourselves as Jews in the world and our willingness to be recognized as such; a comfort which suddenly feels diminished. Continuing to express our Jewish identity is a reflection not only of ourselves as individuals; it messages our willingness to be seen as bearers of the collective Jewish values we share.

When the Maccabees re-dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem to the worship of God, they were in essence dedicating themselves, along with us, their descendants, and spiritual heirs, to the worship of God. To worship God successfully requires that we be seen doing so; that our actions and choices reflect our commitments.

The #BeAMaccabee Campaign described below offers a model for how to express ourselves in a contemporary idiom. As we celebrate Hanukah this year, let us appreciate our ability to choose our religious identity, to choose to live up to the expectations of our tradition, to choose light more than candles in the window but to illumine the world by our actions in the world.

Chag Hanukah Sameach –
Rabbi David M. Eligberg

Check out the new RST-TV ​​​​​​​ featuring for Hannukah:

The Great Dreidel Spin Off
Hannukah Memes
“What a Great Line!”
Hannukah Screen Shots

Join the #BeAMaccabee Campaign and post symbols of Jewish pride on social media as part of this year’s Hannukah observance.

The Rabbinical Assembly is partnering with USCJ to launch this campaign, “focusing on the Maccabees’ resistance to assimilation as a parallel to our modern-day need for Jewish pride. This valence of the Maccabees’ story symbolizes our resilience in the face of terror and antisemitism at home and abroad.”

It also continues our expressions of solidarity with Israel since the onset of the Simhat Torah War on October 7, 2023, by emphasizing “the ultimate theme of Am Yisrael Hai, the Jewish People Live.”

Participation Requires Only a Few Quick Clicks
·         Post symbols of personal Jewish pride such as your hanukkiyah in the window or in your home, your mezuzah or tzedakah box, or a picture from a visit to Israel on social media during Hanukkah. Be sure to include “#BeAMaccabee” in the text of your post!
·         Explore and share the #BeAMaccabee  landing page ​​​​​​​ on Exploring Judaism with your community via email, social media, and more.