The Avodah Blog

Igniting Chanukah

It’s not hard to find symbols of social justice in Chanukah.  There’s the triumph of individual freedom over censorship and oppression; the reminder, as we light candles, that we can act as a shamash in our own communities; and there’s the appreciation of having a safe haven – a home, with a window – from which to share and acknowledge miracles.

Sometimes, though, coming as it does in the holiday season, Chanukah is easy to embrace as a more superficial celebration.  And as Chanukah progresses, the cheerful activities of candle-lighting, latka-making and dreidel-playing can begin to seem a little routine; the prospect of eight successive nights can leave us wanting a little more substance. With this in mind, here are some resources that offer the chance to bring in – and spread – a little more light: attempts to dispel Chanukah’s ‘bad reputation’, reminding us that Chanukah gelt was originally given as real money, not chocolate, to children; they were encouraged to then donate it as tzedakah.

Sustaining the Light: A Social Justice Program Guide for Chanukah from The Religious Action Center on Reform Judaism is a free, downloadable resource designed to help us explore the connection between Chanukah and issues of environmental and economic justice, children’s rights, and religious freedom.

Dvora Meyer on the Repair the World blog investigates the historical origins of the holiday to figure out how to avoid burnout as organizers and confront oppression with powerful, meaningful acts.

Rabbi Michael Lerner compares the Hellenization of ancient Israel with our current political and economic institutions, and reminds us that the miracle of Chanukah was that – then, as now – small groups of people are able to stay loyal to a vision of a world based on generosity, love of stranger, justice and peace.

Pursue adds a justice spin to the traditional game of dreidel, reminding us to give tzedakah, become an advocate, take a break to sustain ourselves, and do something BIG to promote justice. Read the rules of this alternative dreidel Hannukah justice spin.

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