These are the remarks my son and I gave together at the lighting of the North Adams chanukiyah in City Hall, shared as a video and as text below. May the light of our traditions continue to shine.
Chanukah celebrates light in the darkness, the persistence of hope, and the persistence of us. Two thousand, two hundred years ago an invading empire desecrated our Temple in Jerusalem and made the practice of Judaism illegal. We drove them out and rededicated our holy place. The commemoration of that rededication became Chanukah. The Greco-Syrians did not destroy us.
A few hundred years later, the Roman empire conquered Jerusalem and destroyed our holy place. We re-envisioned our traditions to keep them alive in a post-Temple era. We renewed Judaism and carried it with us all over the world. The Romans did not destroy us.
The Crusades decimated Jewish communities across Europe. The Crusaders did not destroy us. In 1290 all Jews were expelled from England, and in 1492 from Spain. The whims of those monarchs did not destroy us. In the 20th century the Nazis attempted to exterminate Jews and Judaism.The Nazis did not destroy us.
Today antisemitism is rising around the world. We still kindle our festival lights, and every night we add a candle as we rededicate ourselves to spreading light. We place our menorahs in the window to proclaim the miracle: hatred will not destroy us. The light of hope still shines. The light of our tradition still shines.
These Chanukah lights are a reminder of our persistence. We stand up today against antisemitism – and also Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and all forms of hatred or bigotry. We let these Chanukah lights be a reminder to keep persisting, to stand up for our neighbors as ourselves. Most of all, may the light of these Chanukah candles -- the light of our traditions -- keep shining throughout the years to come.