Rabbi Wirtschafter: Publicizing a miracle: Celebrating Hanukkah with pride and joy

   Publicity campaigns are not a modern invention. The challenge of spreading the word has been with us for centuries. The rabbis of ancient times taught that it is not enough to light the hanukiah (the Hanukkah lamp/menorah) just anywhere in our homes. Rather, they ask us to place it in the window, where passersby can see it. Our sages call this persumei nisa, publicizing a miracle. 
   In the case of Hanukkah, this means celebrating a victory for religious freedom. 
   In a contemporary context of recent hate crimes against Jews, African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics and members of the LGBTQ community, it means having the pride and confidence not to allow violence and vitriol to drive constitutionally guaranteed public rights — freedom of religion, speech and assembly —into private spaces where they can’t be so easily compromised. To appropriate the LGBTQ term, it means living with PRIDE, even when pride is a scary way to live. Pride is the underpinning of persumei nisa, publicizing a miracle. 
   We will not allow fear to become the No. 1 emotion associated with being Jewish. The presence of patrol cars and the installation of more security cameras should not be the only outward displays we make available. The hanukkiah is lit not only for those inside a Jewish setting but for those on the outside. The Maccabees did not allow fear of oppression to result in the abandonment of their faith, and neither will we. It is with pride and joy that we will broadcast the miracle of our survival, and refusal to be driven into hiding, from our windows and front porches, from our Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. 
   We take the responsibility of security seriously, but we will not permit concern for our safety to compromise the essence of our identity. We ask you to partner with us in making sure that the measures we have taken for our protection do not define how we relate to one another or undermine the quality of our interactions. 
   The most important thing we can do to protect our congregation and sustain the Jewish people is to keep adding to the happy memories and meaningful experiences we create at home and here at Temple. So please, get some sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts,) make some Kentucky fried extra crispy latkes, buy a few extra bags of gelt (chocolate “coins”) and learn how to spin a dreidel upside down with your non-dominant hand while standing on one foot and singing Ma-Otzer (“Rock of Ages”). Sometimes, the greatest act of resistance to bullies, big and small, is to live our lives with happiness and courage. To remind them that we, not they, define who we are, what we do and how we feel. 
   The best publicity campaign we can create is to fill our homes and congregations with pride and joy.
    Happy Hanukkah!