There are lots of things I love about Hanukkah. Each night as our family gathers to light the Hanukkah candles, I am struck by the opportunity to share our faith and pride with the outside world by lighting our candles outside on our front porch and in the window facing the street.
As Rabbi David Hartman put it: “In lighting the Hanukkah lamp, the Jew announces to the outside world: “This is my flame. Gaze on this light and know that from this home a Jewish light burns.”
Another element of Hanukkah that has captured my attention is the notion that Jews of all backgrounds, approaches to observance and affiliation light their candles the same way. The universal custom is to increase the number of candles we light each night. The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) calls this approach “mehadrin min hamehadrin” - the meticulous way to perform the Mitzvah.
I do not think there is another example of this in all of Jewish life. For some inexplicable reason, Jews of all stripes have decided to fulfill the Mitzvah in the same fashion and with extra piety.
Hanukkah, then, becomes a unifier; a snapshot of what unified Jewish community life can look like. I am happy to smile for that picture.
One of the reasons that I love working at the J is that, in many ways, it is the Hanukkiah (Hanukkah Menorah) of the community – the J is the great unifier. It is a place where Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations gather to study, play, eat and be with community. Walk the halls of the J on any given day and you will see that snapshot of our community.
This is why I wish to let you know about an amazing project going on right now at the J giving everyone the opportunity to be a part of this grand vision.
So far over 350 donors in our community have chosen to reinvest in our Meyerland Campus to help build a new J and a home for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston? The construction project is well underway and should be completed in just over a year from now – see the vision and progress!
We are now asking everyone in our community to join in this historic generational transformation. We want everyone to have the opportunity to say, “I helped make this project happen!” We are excited to share that a group of donors will generously match your gift dollar for dollar up to $180,000. Be a part of this matching opportunity by making a commitment by December 31, 2021.
Happy Hanukkah and Shabbat Shalom from the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC – the community Hanukkiah!
Rabbi Barry Gelman
Rabbi Barry Gelman is the Director of the Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning (CJLL). Rabbi Gelman teaches a number of classes at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC and is working on injecting Jewish content to existing programs as well as developing new programs to highlight the beauty and relevance of Judaism.