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Community BlogSolace and Solidarity

This morning’s news of the brutal attack on Jews celebrating Hanukkah in Monsey, New York was heartbreaking and horrifying. All the more so because we know that it is part of a rising tide of anti-Semitism in this country and around the world. All the more so because we know that it is part of a rising tide of intolerance, hatred, and violence in this country and around the world.

So many of us are seeking ways to bring light into these dark times, not just during this week of Hanukkah but every week, every day of the year.

May we draw strength from the knowledge that there are others, many others, striving to bring light into this world. And may the lights we kindle give others the hope and strength to continue — ner mi’ner — one candle lighting another.

The mitzvah of lighting candles on Hanukkah is a powerful reminder that we need to look inward and outward at the same time, as we do this work. If we forget to tend to the light of our own spirits, we will lose our bearings, and the light we bring to the world will be distorted and diminished. But, at the same time, we dare not forget this: the lights we kindle are meant to illumine not only our own spirits and our own homes, but the world around us. They are meant to be placed in the window as a beacon of courage, resilience, and hope — for all to see.

Who would have imagined that this act would have taken on such terrible resonance in this country, at this time? Who would have imagined that the risk entailed in this simple act of rededication, this public affirmation of our dignity and identity as Jews, would strike so close to home?

There is much work ahead, a need for serious and sustained communal reflection, conversation, and action.

But, for tonight, as I light the last candles of Hanukkah this year, I will be thinking of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who reportedly — minutes after the brutal attack in his home last night — went next door to the synagogue to pray and light candles with his community.

May our prayers and the light of our candles tonight touch theirs, offering solace and solidarity in this difficult time.

B’virkat shalom.

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is president of Hebrew College in Newton Centre, MA.

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