The Hanukkah Story that Jews Need to Learn

November 7, 2021
The main headlines

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Bennett’s diplomatic tsunami
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Ra’am Party head Mansour Abbas during a plenum session and a vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Deborah Lipstadt. Source: Screenshot.
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“I am an equal-opportunity hater of anti-Semitism … if they’re expressing the anti-Semitism, I want to fight it with the same degree of strength and courage and intensity. I don’t care where it comes from—wherever it comes from, it must be fought,” said the historian and professor.
BRIEFJewish groups urge approval of anti-Semitism envoy amid concern over past tweets
“The hold on Lipstadt’s confirmation must be lifted quickly so she may assume the post and commence this important work,” wrote B’nai B’rith president Charles Kaufman and CEO Dan Mariaschin in a statement.
General view of the assembly hall during a vote on the 2022 state budget in the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 4, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
BRIEF
Knesset passes 2022 budget
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The $145.2 billion budget passed by 59 to 56 following a marathon overnight vote, shoring up the stability of the fragile coalition.
BRIEFIsrael’s coalition breathes easy as 2021 state budget clears Knesset hurdle
DANIELLE ROTH-AVNERI ISRAEL HAYOM
The country’s first state budget since 2018 passed by a one-vote majority • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: “This is a festive day for Israel!”
Sudan’s Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Source: Screenshot.
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US asks Israel to urge Sudanese coup leaders to return civilian government
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A Mossad delegation visited the capital city of Khartoum earlier this week on what has been characterized as a fact-finding mission.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Ra’am Party head Mansour Abbas during a plenum session and a vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
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Israeli budget, set to increase funding for Arab-Israeli sector, would boost Islamist Party
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“Ra’am is getting its just reward with the increased budget for the Arab sector and has justified its historical participation in an Israeli government,” says past parliamentary consultant Shaheen Sarsur.
An illustration of the Carmel future combat vehicle. Credit: Israel Aerospace Industries.
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Yoav Turgeman, CEO of Elta Systems: Artificial intelligence-powered ground vehicles will begin fulfilling missions much like drones began in air forces.
Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Credit: Beyond the Road Prod/Shutterstock.
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While there have been ramifications for those who attended it, they also say it was a productive first step for Iraqis to consider the prospects of peace with Israelis.
Interpal. Source: Interpal/Twitter.
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US-designated terror group stops Palestinian fundraising after revenue plummets
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Interpal’s income was reduced from $7.1 million in 2019 to $2.9 million in 2020, according to UK Lawyers for Israel.
April Benayoum, “Miss Provence” 2020 and runner-up in the “Miss France” 2021 beauty pageant. Source: Instagram.
BRIEF
Paris court fines social-media users for hate posts targeting ‘Miss France’ runner-up
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The abuse was done mostly on Twitter and included tweets that said, “Hitler forgot about this one” and “Don’t vote for a Jew.”
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews take part in a prayer of the Sigd holiday on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade overlooking Jerusalem on Nov. 27, 2019. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
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American Jews explore Sigd Ethiopian holiday in event to foster unity
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“Jewish communities around the world grow closer by learning about each other’s unique customs and cultures,” said Sigal Kanotopsky.
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Crowds at the 2016 New York City Marathon. Credit: A. Katz/Shutterstock.
Young volunteers with the Latet humanitarian organization in Israel. Source: Facebook/Latet.
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“The benefit of this conference is that we have learned how interconnected we are globally. A problem that begins in one part of the world very quickly becomes a problem in another part of the world,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York.

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Anti-Israel bias in a major American paper matters
A view of Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Credit: Ruslan Paul/Shutterstock.
BRIEFOnline campaign ridicules ‘Times’ article describing Israelis as ‘angry,’ ‘displeased’
Israelis have been tweeting photos at weddings, restaurants, the beach, bars and concerts, dancing in bomb shelters, on hikes—with the satirical hashtag #SadSadIsrael.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) speaking at a Capitol Hill briefing on the reopening o the U.S. Consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, Nov. 4, 2021. Source: Screenshot.
BRIEF
At Capitol Hill grilling, Biden official confirms reopening of Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians
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Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Matt McKeon also said in response to a question by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.): “I believe we still regard Jerusalem as a final-status question. But I want to get you a more precise answer for the record.”
BRIEF200 House Republicans ‘strongly oppose’ reopening consulate for Palestinians
A letter signed and sent to U.S. President Joe Biden states that doing so would “be inconsistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.”
BRIEFGOP senators move to block Biden’s plan to reopen consulate for Palestinians
Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act was introduced by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and co-sponsored by 34 other Republicans.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
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CSA is geared to promote the cooperation between the U.S. oil and gas industries and the pro-Israel community.
Chelsea stadium, home to Chelsea FC, one of the clubs originally involved in the European Super League. Credit: Hanafi Latif/Shutterstock.
BRIEF
Chelsea Foundation to host global conference on soccer’s role in battling anti-Semitism
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Policy and sports experts worldwide will engage in panel discussions about its prevalence among fans worldwide.
BRIEFFIFA president urged to take action against Polish referee’s anti-Jewish rant
“Unfortunately, the words of Mr. Araszkiewicz show that the use of negative stereotypes about Jews is a phenomenon that is still present also in the world of football,” said a letter directed to Gianni Infantino.
BRIEFFIFA fines Scottish soccer association after fans boo Israeli national anthem
Anti-Israel demonstrators also held signs that compared Zionism to “racism” and said Israel shouldn’t be allowed to play in the competition.
BRIEFTop Italian soccer league adopts IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
“Sports are a crucial arena for tackling hate, and more national football leagues should follow suit,” stated the European Jewish Congress.
Entrance sign to the campus of Arizona State University. Credit: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.
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Coalition of Jewish groups urges Arizona State to act after anti-Semitic fliers appear on campus
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“Let us not be shy about our Judaism or cower in the face of hate. Let us stand proudly as Jews and show pride,” said Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Rohr Chabad at ASU in Tempe, Ariz.
BRIEFAustin fire department releases photo of man who set fire to Texas synagogue
The suspect, described as thin with brown hair with a face covering, was seen on video camera driving a dark-colored “later-model SUV-style vehicle” into the parking lot of Congregation Beth Israel.
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Lord Arthur Balfour in Mandatory Palestine with Vera and Chaim Weizmann (seated, at left), Nahum Sokolow and others in 1925. Credit: Avital Efrat via Wikimedia Commons.
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Palestinian schools mark 104 years of Balfour Declaration with hate
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Plays, texts and chants designed to incite children occurred from Jenin to Hebron across the West Bank and in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
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Ebrahim Raisi during Iranian presidential elections, June 14, 2021. Credit: Armin2210 via Wikimedia Commons.
BRIEF
Iran’s Raisi vows not to back down ‘in any way’ in nuclear talks
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Crowds gather across Iran to mark the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” and burning American and Israeli flags.
Israel’s Defense Ministry deploys the HAAS, a large missile-defense aerostat. November 2021. Credit: Courtesy of Israel’s Ministry of Defense.
BRIEF
Israel deploys large missile-defense aerostat equipped with high-tech radar
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Developed and manufactured by TCOM, a U.S. company specializing in aerostat surveillance solutions, it is one the biggest to date.
United Arab Emirates-Australia, 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals, Jan. 25, 2019. Credit: Amir Ostovari via Wikimedia Commons.
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UAE soccer team set to make history by competing in Israeli tournament
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“We will proudly wave the flags of the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Russia alongside our blue-and-white flag,” said Oren Hasson, chairman of the Israel Football Association.
Negotiations in Vienna over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the existing Iran nuclear deal, May 2021. Source: Enrique Mora/European External Action Service/Twitter.
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Negotiations around return to Iran nuclear deal to resume on Nov. 29
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“We welcome the E.U.’s announcement that they have coordinated with all participants, and that talks on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA will resume,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Thomas Nides in Islamabad April 4, 2012. Credit: U.S. Embassy Pakistan/Flickr.
BRIEF
Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel
ARIEL KAHANA ISRAEL HAYOM
The move ends a nearly 10-month period in which Washington had no official envoy in the Jewish state.
NEWSAmbassador to Israel’s confirmation delayed by GOP objection amid partisan rancor
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Deborah Lipstadt, the administration’s choice to serve as Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, has also yet to be confirmed.

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Palestinian activist Mona el-Kurd and Residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah hold a press conference against the Supreme Court offer to the residents, on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
BRIEFSheikh Jarrah residents reject suggested compromise deal by ‘occupation court’
The settlement by Israel’s Supreme Court would have allowed the residents to remain in their homes for 15 years as “protected tenants.”
Co-founder and CEO of the Israeli-American Council Shoham Nicolet addresses the opening plenary at its national summit in Southeast Florida, Dec. 5, 2019. Photo by Noam Galai.
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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at a “Westchester Stands United Against Anti-Semitism and Hate” rally at the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester, N.Y., June 7, 2021. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
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New York City governor signs law prohibiting hate symbols on public property
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Kathy Hochul: “There is no reason for a symbol of hate to ever be on display, let alone by a police or fire department charged with protecting their community.”
Steel dies used by Nazi Germany to tattoo numbers on Jewish prisoners’ arms during the Second World War. Photo: Yehonatan Shaul.
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Israeli court halts auction of ‘Auschwitz tattoo kits’
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Bidding had reached $3,400 when the auction was suspended pending a Nov. 16 hearing, following an outcry from Jewish leaders and Holocaust survivors.
University of Haifa president Ron Rubin signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, for joint research and exchange programs, Nov. 3, 2021. Credit: Courtesy.
BRIEF
Haifa, Zayed universities sign MoU for research, student/faculty exchanges
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The agreement will foster shared information and joint projects across a variety of disciplines, such as marine sciences, education and natural-resources management.
New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams. Credit: Steve Sanchez Photos/Shutterstock.
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While support for Israel played a role, American Jews—like Americans as a whole—prioritized education, the economy and health care first.
Fadah Jassem. Source: Twitter.
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Fadah Jassem, a London-based former television producer and editor, is being criticized for supporting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and leaving out the flag of Israel in an introductory tweet.
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A still from the Netflix documentary “Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis,” November 2021. Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.
Cyber attack illustration. Credit: Kai Stachowiak/Pixabay via Wikimedia Commons.
BRIEF
Black Shadow leaks info on hundreds of thousands additional Israelis
GUY LEVYISRAEL HAYOM
The Iranian hackers responsible for publishing data on users of LGBTQ app Atraf released medical records and other data of Israelis, though so far not patients’ credit-card details.
BRIEFIran-affiliated hackers demand $1 million, threaten to release Israelis’ data
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The “BlackShadow” group posted the demand on Telegram, saying its initial demand to Israeli web-hosting company Cyberserve was not met. Israel Internet Association CEO: “Under no circumstances” should the ransom be paid.
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Flag of Hezbollah and Lebanon flying together. Credit: Arthur Sarradin
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“For a long time, the Saudis haven’t liked the current Lebanese government. They are refusing to help Lebanon because they feel Hezbollah controls the political system and influences everything,” said Orna Mizrahi at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
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Bernard-Henri Lévy. Photo: Courtesy of Hampstead Rose LLC.
Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of the Rohr Chabad at GW, holds up a Torah at a campus rally against anti-Semitism on Nov. 2, 2021. Credit: @phebegphoto/The Rohr Chabad at GW.
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Hundreds march at George Washington University to take stand against anti-Semitism
FAYGIE HOLTJNS
“Someone came and tried to make Jewish students feel attacked; our response was to do the opposite,” said Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of the Rohr Chabad at GW.
NEWSRally against anti-Semitism organized after Torah vandalized at George Washington University
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Rabbi Yudi Steiner, director of the Rohr Chabad at GW, said “what I’m hoping to do today is lead by example and model how I think the Jewish response, from Jewish students especially, should be, and that is what we will talk about the rally.”
Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz speaks at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on October 11, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
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The United States and Europe apparently believe that Israel is criminalizing Palestinian civil society and undermining the Palestinian “struggle for freedom.”
Holocaust survivors at the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as part of the March of the Living UK (from left) Harry (Chaim) Olmer, Mala Tribich, Eve Kugler and Alfred Garwood, October 2021. Photo by Sam Churchill.
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March of Living UK focuses on nuance, taking group to Germany for first time
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Four Holocaust survivors and 80 participants—Jews and non-Jews, aged 19 to 90—visited Berlin, Wannsee, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen, the latter to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation by British forces.
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Scroll to view moreCOLUMN
STEVEN BURG
The Hanukkah story that Jews need to learn
Pressure to stamp out “hard-line Judaism” came from the Hellenists—the assimilated Jews. They resented the fact that their lives were made more difficult by a minority of their own people who refused to “give up their old ways.”
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(November 7, 2021 / JNS) Many of us know the themes of the Hanukkah story: pride in being Jewish; the few against the many; the defeat of our enemy; and the rededication of the Jewish Temple. Or perhaps some have only learned of the miracle of the oil, and how it burned continuously for eight days. While these are important themes, there is much more to the Hanukkah story that is at the heart of why we celebrate the holiday, and why it is so relevant today.

Looking at the story of Hanukkah, which happened in the 2nd century BCE, we know that many Jews of that era were assimilated. They wanted it all; they identified as Jews, but didn’t want to affiliate, and they were not studying Torah. Some were culturally Jewish—until that, too, was banned. They, like so many today, certainly would have declared themselves “Jews of a different or no religion.”

These Jews, known as Hellenists, emulated everything Greek culture had to offer. In order to be accepted in the halls of commerce and power, they thought that they had to dissociate themselves from their Jewish brothers. Core Jewish values of justice and morality got in the way of the self-preserving and decadent mores of the conquering Greek culture.

But when the non-Jewish ruling government started to clamp down on religious freedom, life became decidedly uncomfortable for their brethren—observant Jews. Forced to do away with Jewish rituals, including brit milah (circumcision), Jewish names, Shabbat, festivals and Torah study, those who hadn’t assimilated were forced to choose between embracing Greek culture or punishment by death.

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A minority within the religious community that chose to fight this oppression joined the Maccabees and became part of an uprising. They managed a miraculous military defeat, the part of the Hanukkah story that is well known.

The other piece of the story, however, is that the pressure to stamp out “hard-line Judaism” came from the Hellenists—the assimilated Jews. They resented the fact that their lives were made more difficult by a minority of their own people who refused to “give up their old ways.”

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