Judaism Unbound Episode 45: Hanukkah Unbound - Ruth Abusch-Magder


Dan and Lex are joined by guest co-host Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Rabbi-in-Residence and Director of Education at Be'chol Lashon [1] , for a discussion about the future of Hanukkah in America. Starting with the premise that Hanukkah is no longer a minor holiday, but rather has become a major festival of contemporary Judaism, Dan, Lex, and Ruth explore how Hanukkah could (or maybe should) shift to meet contemporary Jewish needs.

(0:01 - 16:19): The three co-hosts begin by expressing why Hanukkah in 2016 is not a minor holiday, as many claim, but actually one of the major moments of the Jewish calendar year. Expanding on that point, Dan emphasizes that the three major holidays of today's Jewish life -- Passover, the High Holidays, and Hanukkah -- only share one holiday in common with the three major holidays (pilgrimage festivals) of Biblical Judaism (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). The co-hosts also explore the idea of re-scheduling Hanukkah so that it would occur from Christmas to the New Year every year, as it did in 2016. [2] [3]

(16:20 - 36:41): Why has Hanukkah proven to be so widely observed in today's Jewish world? What about it is worthwhile? The discussion shifts to look at what Hanukkah is today, along with ways in which it can affect people's lives. In doing so, the three co-hosts explore the themes of light, fire, Jewish pride, and more. [4] 

Image Credit: ThanksgivukkahBoston.com

Image Credit: ThanksgivukkahBoston.com

(36:42 - 52:39): The co-hosts discuss the importance both of intellectual engagement with Jewish rituals along with pure, simple, joy. They also explore ways that the story of Hanukkah can be informative for us in the wake of Donald Trump's election. [5] In closing, Dan, Lex, and Ruth offer their final thoughts on what new rituals or ideas could further enhance Hanukkah in the future, and they also call on our listeners to propose ideas of their own!

[1] You can read Abusch-Magder's bio by clicking here. Check out Be'chol Lashon's website here.

[2] In Episode Five: Leviticus, Dan and Lex take on the question of moving the dates of Jewish holidays from a slightly different angle, with guest Vanessa Ochs. Listen in to that conversation here.

[3] In this segment, Lex mentions Thanksgivukkah, a holiday that occurred when Thanksgiving fell on Hanukkah in 2013. Look back at that occasion through this article on Religion Dispatches that was published just before its observance.

[4] In this section, Abusch-Magder tells a memorable story that took place in Billings, Montana in 1993. To read the full story, check out this article she wrote on MyJewishLearning.

[5] To explore Hanukkah's wisdom for the age of Donald Trump in more detail, you can read Danya Ruttenberg's piece in the Washington Post, entitled "What the Hanukkah story teaches us about the Trump administration."