Last night – with 500 in person and close to 200 online – inspirational talent, thinkers and clergy lit up the dark night in preparation for Hanukkah. In an unprecedented event built by Amichai Lau-Lavie, Abigail Pogrebin and Dr. Burt Visotzky, the audience was delighted with humor, discourse, music and teaching from musical talent crossing the Jewish religious spectrum (including Peter Yarrow and our own Shira Kline and Naomi Less) and inspirational panelists including Amichai Lau-Lavie, Author Bruce Feiler, R. David Ingber of Romemu, Rabbi Jill Hammer, Professor Burt Visotzky, Rabba Sara Hurwitz – Moderated by Abigail Pogrebin on behalf of the Jewish forward.
A perspective on the night – from Lab/Shul community member Harold Geller.
“My summary from the event follows: Everything we know about Chanukah is likely incorrect (according to someone ), however it is a holiday about being a light in a world of darkness. Great miracles can happen anywhere (a universal suggestion that all dreidels should say “nes gadol hayah poh”). Rabbis frowned upon the increased attention on Chanukah, because the main rituals focus on it as a home based holiday, and deemphasized the synagogue as the center of Jewish practice, in days when “institutional sustainability” was a question…The whole theme of “light out of darkness ” can be attributed to the timing of the winter solstice. We have to remember that the “battle of the many vs the few” the few were the Hasmomeans, who were religious fundamentalists, and the many were assimilated secular, or cultural Jews, who We’re likely the conservative and reform Jews of the day. The timing of Christmas, actually has changed several times, and according to Bruce Feiler, was moved to December to coincide with the solstice.
I believe that my conclusion is that we can find uniquely Jewish enlightenment as lights first to our own people, (before other nations ) by promoting and enhancing that which unites us, and even though fundamentalists may seem to win, they remain a minority, and we must find ways to look at ancient rituals and observances through a modern lens.”