This holiday season, as part of the celebration of Chanukah, Jews tell the story of the Maccabees.  However, we often leave out the fact that some Jews wanted to assimilate and give up their freedom.  Chanukah was a story about civil war just as much as it was a fight against oppressive tyrants.

There are really two Hanukkah stories — the one we tell our children, and the one they eventually learn. It’s true that Hanukkah is a celebration of the Jewish people’s victory over Syrian-Hellenist oppressors forcing them to assimilate around 168 B.C. The popular hero of the story, Judah Maccabee, hid in the hills for four years with a small band of brothers and fellow Jews to emerge victorious against a far larger Syrian army. The Jews reclaimed their holy Temple, then lit their eternal flame with a tiny spot of olive oil that they believed was enough for just one day. The oil burned, miraculously, for eight days, hence the eight-day holiday. What is often lost in the retelling is that Hanukkah is also a story of civil war. Many Jews wanted to assimilate and much Jewish blood was shed by fellow Jews. If nothing else, this back story helps us more clearly understand the sacrifices made.

  The story of Chanukah gives us hope in these dark times of oppression.  On the side of the Syrians, we have the Religious Right.  On the side of Assimilation, we have the Obots.  Above all, on the side of the Maccabees, we have the PUMAs.  We are the ones who won’t take it anymore.  We won’t accept the “selected” President-elect.  We won’t accept misogyny in any form.  We won’t accept being 2nd class citizens.  The PUMAs, like the Maccabees, are the ones who will be seen as heroes for fighting for what we believe in several centuries down the road.

  Chanukah is a time for “miracles”.  However, the real lesson behind Chanukah is that to get a miracle, you have to be willing to take a stand. 

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