JCRC Column: Dispelling darkness with light

The Talmudic rabbis discussed the power of a single candle. In a dark space, a single light makes an enormous difference. In a dark room a single small flame provides for sight. And when a candle shares its power – its flame – with another candle, light is amplified; the first candle is not diminished.

The past year has been divisive. More than eight in ten Americans believe the country is more deeply divided this year than in the past several years, according to a CNN/ORC poll. The Jewish community is not immune to those divisions. More than ever in recent history, hatred has risen during the recent election (see the recent joint JCFR/JCRC statement).

We (alongside other groups) have faced hatred and bigotry and there have been divisions within the Jewish community before. Hanukah –the Festival of Lights – is the time to address both. Hanukah is the time to brighten lives. How do we accomplish that?

Only a month ago, at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, spoke of the divisiveness all around us and taught: “When Jews stand together no force on earth can ever prevail against us.”

Recalling the leadership and memories of Leonard Cohen, Elie Wisel and Shimon Peres he shared, “They were unafraid to stand up and be proud as Jews. And if there is one thing I have learned from decades in public life it is: non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism.” And the Rabbi implored us, “… Let each of us undertake our own Jewish journey. … Let us do the Jewish deed and be proud to be Jews.”

As for how to affect change, the Rabbi said:

We can change the world the way Abraham and Sarah changed the world. Because if we truly believe, that one life is like an entire universe, than all you have to do is change one life and you’ve begun to change the universe. The only way we can. One life at a time. One day at a time. One act at a time.

… When out there, there is despair, let us bring hope. When out there is hurt, let us heal. And when out there is division, let us show that we are enlarged and not diminished by our differences. Let us show the world what it is to stand together and respect one another... Go out there, continue the Jewish journey and be a blessing to the Jewish people and to the world.” 

On Dec. 4, your JCRC co-sponsored a Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities “Standing Together” Community Gathering. Attended by over 400 Richmonders, we stood with the greater community and proclaimed, in the face of increased hatred and bigotry, “We Stand Together.”

Rabbi Sacks said, “To be a Jew is to true to your faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”

The Rabbis discussed the power of a single candle. In a dark space a single light can make an enormous difference. So too with actions. As we approach the Festival of Lights, please join us in standing for the good. Happy Hanukah.

Rabbi Lord Sacks’s remarks can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbTRsAXvu8

Contact Daniel “Doni” Fogel, director of Jewish community relations at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org or (804) 545-8626 with comments or to join the next General Assembly. 


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