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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Zfat

Celebrating Hanukkah in the Face of Anti-Semitism


"They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat."


Jewish history in 3 sentences.


As the Jewish nation celebrates Hanukkah this week, it's bittersweet, as the hatred, vitriol and anti-Semitism against my people has reached a new low.


2022 is on track to be the year with the most anti-Semitic incidents on record, and it's no secret why, between the hate incited by Kanye West, anti-Semitic tropes like The Great Replacement conspiracy theory in the midterm elections, a boom in online hate, and growing public displays of anti-Semitism.


Last year:

• Assaults against Jews increased 167%

• Attacks on Jewish synagogues and community centers were up 61%

• Anti-Semitic incidents at K-12 schools increased 106%

• Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses rose 21%


So: How does a Jew put a menorah in their window during Hanukkah? How do we confidently drop off our kids at Jewish schools? How do we live an outwardly Jewish life, and not feel terrified? Or jealous when our friends boldly decorate their lawns with Christmas lights?


More existentially: How do we balance the good with the bad? How do we celebrate a miracle - not just the miracle of Hanukkah but the miracle that a nation of people still exists after centuries of persecution - while honoring an ongoing tragedy?


That's the Jews, as a people. We celebrate in one hand, and cry in another. We hold both joy and pain - and know that you can only truly experience one, when you know the other. I guess that's humanity, in a sense.


If I've learned anything this year, it's that when things become difficult, it is often so we can appreciate the good things in our lives.


We can celebrate a miracle while acknowledging a tragedy. Both things, in fact, must be recognized. This type of push-pull is how we grow. It's exercise for the soul.


As we light our Hanukkah candles during this tenuous time, we must remember that the only way to dispute hatred is with empathy. To leave a seat open at the table. That is the legacy of our people.


"They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat."

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