Modern Hanukah Situation

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....
As the festive holiday of Hanukah has come to an end for this year, I had a thought I have been wanting to share. I recently returned with my family (wife and 5 lovely children) to Israel after visiting my wonderful Parents and extended family in the great State of Virginia (in the Confederacy).  Of course its always great to visit and see everyone, but over the course of the past few years I have come away with an impression that I think is important for many Jews to hear, especially around Hanukah time. This impression is the cumulative result of my conversations and experiences with family, friends and strangers (in-person and online) in various venues, including family gatherings, community events, conferences like AIPAC and CPAC, and of my wok at the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) in the Old City of Jerusalem. 

In any conflict, we generally assume there to be two conflicting sides. In the story of Hanukah, there are the Jews, led by the Maccabees, and the Hellenists, Jews committed to mass assimilation to a foreign culture. However, undoubtedly, there must be a third group as well - those folks that were not as courageous and dedicated as the Maccabees, but also not in any way actively treacherous as the Hellenists. Both sides surely wooed these "swing voters" to join their respective side. Eventually many Jews joined with the Maccabees and defeated not only the Hellenists but their Assyrian Greek allies from abroad. 

Based on my experiences and interactions in America and Israel with the relatively non-halachically observant Jewish community, I'd confidently say that most of them fall into this middle category. They may not have joined the Maccabees, but they are not knowingly actively involved with any form of treacherous activity. With a little encouragement from their more Jewishly-connected relatives and friends, their potential contribution to the Jewish collective future could be quite immense indeed. This is especially true as it pertains to Israel and the strongly pro-Israel sentiment that many of them inherently possess. 

For every j-street and peacenow charlatan among us, there are numerous fine Jewish individuals just waiting for the right opportunity/invitation to help the Jewish People. The Maccabees didn't disregard them and either should we! I'd say its pretty safe to say that they could be a major factor in our eventual victory over our enemies of today. It is incumbent on all of us to reach out and encourage/educate/influence/inspire our fellow Jews wherever they may be - the results from such efforts could last alot longer than 8 nights. 

Ben Packer
Old City of Jerusalem