As a Jew who loves Christmas as much as Hanukkah and deeply respects American Christians, I’m thrilled when the holidays coincide. The Founding Generation rejected centuries-old European anti-Semitism, immediately accepting Jews as full citizens. Their first idea for the American seal was an image of Moses leading the Israelites through the parted Red Sea to freedom. It’s shameful that many owned African slaves, but abolition was a Christian movement; thousands of Christians and Jews fought and died in the Civil War, and Martin Luther King based his civil rights movement on Jesus and the Book of Exodus. The fact that after the Holocaust virtually all Christian denominations reversed 2,000 years of anti-Semitism and embraced Israel is a miracle. Now, Christians and Jews are challenged to welcome the LGBTQ community, and many are doing so with open arms.
Today, we are witnessing a terrifying rise in American anti-Semitism, so I invite and encourage Christians and all Americans to light a Hanukkah menorah this year along with Jews as a declaration of unity—it’ll look great next to the Christmas tree! Jesus, of course, kindled Hanukkah lights throughout his life, their warm glow giving his fellow Jews hope as they faced the crushing Roman holocaust. Memories of the miraculous victory against the tyrant Antiochus Epiphanies and his war to destroy Judaism, which Hanukkah commemorates, were fresher in the minds of Jesus and his countrymen than the Revolutionary War is for us today. And had the brave Maccabees lost to Antiochus, and Judaism been destroyed, Christianity may never have been born, so in a way, Hanukkah is as important to Christians as to Jews.
So, let’s all light Hanukkah candles this year; we can use all the light we can get! We Jews, Christians—all Americans—have more that unites than divides us. Ancient tradition bids us place the menorah before a window so the whole world can see. Hanukkah represents freedom and independence, “a light unto the nations,” like Lady Liberty’s torch, and reminds us that together we must never let the flame of freedom die—ever.