Rededicate Against Hate: A Hanukkah Resource

This resource was authored by Judaism Unbound listener Solomon Hoffman, with contributions from Nicole Auerbach and Rebeca Rad, and in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. We are sharing it as part of Hanukkah Unbound with Hoffman's permission. Hoffman is an educator at the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, and is on the volunteer leadership team for the New York Chapter of Bend the Arc.

Background:

Now, in the wake of our recent election, we face a crucial moment. One where we must teach children to stand up against hate, celebratie the diversity of America, and treat all people with kindness. As children look to our elected officials as possible role models, we must do our part to make sure that any form of bigotry or prejudice that might be spread by those in power is seen as wrong and unacceptable. The normalization of hate speech can  escalate to violence, which is why it is so important for it to be called out forcefully -- before it can escalate.

This resource is a tool for starting conversations on these difficult  topics through our celebration of Hanukkah. We hope that this  will lead to meaningful conversations in your home or classroom as you celebrate Hanukkah this  year.

At the core of the Hanukkah story, the Maccabees fight for their right  to express the Jewish religion openly. They live under an oppressive king who  forbids Jewish practice. It is said  that the dreidel game was  played by the Jews to hide the fact that they were really  studying Torah. The Jews win victory  and reclaim the temple. 

“Hanukkah” means rededication, referring to how  the Maccabees rededicated the temple after claiming victory. By lighting the menorah, they established the temple as a place where the Jewish religion could once again be practiced freely.

Since Election Day in America, there has been a startling rise  in hate crimes and hate incidents.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “in the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.”

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias  against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” At the time of Hanukkah, when we celebrate our  right  to express the Jewish religion openly, we need to be conscious of the rise  of incidents in America which  specifically seek to oppress and attack those for their identity and how  they choose to express it.

What to Do:

For each night of Hanukkah, there is a description of a hate crime since the election as documented in the New York Times  column “This Week in Hate.” There is also  a discussion question to spark conversation about how  to grapple with and respond to this  moment in America, and to more deeply explore each of our  own  identities.

Post a picture of your  Menorah on social  media with the hashtags #RededicateAgainstHate and #Hanukkah5777 to show that the Jewish community is using this  moment to stand up to the rise  of hate in our society, and to show solidarity with other vulnerable groups. Invite others to join you in lighting the menorah and participating in these discussions. We hope this  resource will spark conversations among Jews of all ages and backgrounds, but  it may  not  be suitable in it’s entirety for children under 10. For more information on using this  resource with children and possible adaptations, see the “for educators/parents” section at the end.

1st Night:

On December 3rd,  “a Muslim police officer  (wearing a hijab) and her teenage son were accosted in Brooklyn by a man who  yelled  ‘go back  to your country’ and shoved the boy. The officer  had received a medal in 2014  for saving a baby from a fire. A man has been charged with a hate crime in the case.”

Discussion Question: What  are the most important ways  that you express your  Jewish or religious identity? How would it feel if someone made fun of you or targeted you for those ways? Are you comfortable with expressing your  religious identity in public?  If not,  why?

2nd Night:

“When an interracial couple returned to their rental property in Cincinnati after Thanksgiving weekend, they found it badly damaged and defaced with swastikas, a racial  slurand the words ‘white power.’”

Discussion Question: In some ways,  white Jews both benefit from white privilege and are potential targets of antisemitism. If you are a white Jew, how do you navigate this  balance? If you are a Jew of Color, what points of intersectionality do you find between your  religious and racial  identities?

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3rd Night: 

On December 9th,  “a student at Nassau Community College  on Long Island notified security of swastikas and the words ‘Germany’ and ‘Heil Hitler’ drawn in a men’s  restroom. A security guard had found separate swastikas in a stairwell and on a wall last  Wednesday, and three other incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti  were reported in October.”

Discussion Question: Have you ever experienced an incident of anti-Semitism? How did you respond?

4th Night:

In Denver, on Nov. 16, a transgender woman discovered that her car had been vandalized with slurs, a swastika and the word ‘die.’ She had previously written the messages ‘#NotMyPresident’ and ‘Love Trumps Hate’ on the windows.”

Discussion Question: Have you ever experienced an incident of hate due to another part of your  identity? How did you respond? Do you feel comfortable publicly  expressing your  political views? Has that changed at all, for better or worse, since the election?

5th Night:

“A uniformed MTA worker wearing a hijab  was  called a ‘terrorist’ by a man while riding  the 7 train in Manhattan. The man followed her into  Grand Central Terminal and pushed her to the ground; she was  treated for leg injuries.” 

Discussion Question: Have you ever been a bystander to an incident of hate? What  did you do? If you are a bystander in the future, how do you hope to act while still protecting your  own  safety?

6th Night:

In the last  week of November, “three mosques in California and one in Georgia have received letters threatening that Donald Trump “is going  to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” The letters were signed ‘Americans for a Better Way.’” 

Discussion Question: What  is a way you can  be an effective ally to another group that is vulnerable in the post-election climate? Does your Jewish identity affect your  sense of obligation to respond to hate crimes?

7th Night:

“The home in Moonachie, N.J., of Nikita Whitlock,  a fullback for the New York Giants, was  vandalized with swastikas, the phrase ‘KKK’ and the word ‘Trump.’ Police  are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.” 

Discussion Question: What  Jewish and/or American values are most important to you? How are you working to see those values represented in the world around you?

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8th Night:

“At a Smith’s supermarket in Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 23, a woman began shouting Islamophobic abuse at a shopper wearing a hijab.  Employees removed the shouting woman from the store, but  she waited in the parking lot for the woman in the hijab  to emerge. Eventually, employees escorted the woman in the hijab  to her car.”

Discussion Question: What’s one thing you’ll actively  do to make a difference and practice Tikkun Olam (repairing the world)  in 2017?