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Guest column

Let us share the light

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Laurie Franklin

Laurie Franklin

Hanukkah means “dedication.” When we, the Jewish people, rededicated our Holy Temple after defeating Antiochus IV and his invading forces, we lit the temple lamp with a single, remaining pot of holy oil. The oil burned miraculously for eight days, shining intensely with the light of religious freedom.

This year, I rededicate myself to freedom. I will proudly light my Hanukkah lamp and display it at my front door. Once again, I declare to the world, “I am a Jew, and I love my religious and cultural heritage, my ancestors, my family and my Jewish community.” Once again, I dedicate myself to living a Jewish life: celebrating the Sabbath and festivals, loving my neighbor as myself, caring for the earth, supporting the needy, and striving for justice and freedom for all.

When I look at the glowing candles, I remember that in the darkest time of the year, hope illumines the world. The light of the candles reflects the light of creation, the magnificent power of the divine, and the vast energy of all that lives. How fortunate to wake each morning and live another day. How grateful I am to witness the wonder of life!

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This year, I invite you to join me: please place an image of a nine-branched Hanukkah menorah in your window or on your door for all to see. Why? Because this year, either one person or a group has been distributing fliers in Missoula that malign the Jewish people. The leafleting began shortly after the Nov. 8 election and has continued for several weeks.

I repudiate these fliers. White supremacist, pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish ideology is distorted and dangerous. Our country is a land for all people, where all are free to practice our faiths and celebrate our rich and varied cultural heritages. Divisive, prejudicial propaganda has no rightful place in our great democracy.

My family moved to the United States to escape oppression in the early 1900s. We remember too well the pogroms (lynchings) of Eastern European communities from which we came; we remember friends and relatives lost to the Nazi Holocaust. We will not remain silent when fellow citizens applaud the ugliness of the Nazi regime and dare to suggest that it offers a model for society. We will do everything in our power to oppose the rise of hateful rhetoric and action directed towards Jews and all other groups.

Good people of Missoula, where do you stand? Will you join in denouncing those who would spread hate? Will you join in declaring that religious freedom is our right? Will you join in affirming the principles of our American democracy? If so, please display a Hanukkah menorah in your window during this holiday season.

This year, Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same date for the first time since 1959. In this season of miracles, let us share the light.

Laurie Franklin is the spiritual leader of Har Shalom in Missoula. 

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