November 26, 2021

As we prepare to celebrate a second Hanukkah amid a devastating pandemic that has upended our connections with one another, the Journal asked local Jewish community leaders and activists a simple question: 

This Hanukkah, describe something special we can do to bring light to our community. 

The responses signified the precious need for human connection and kindness to others through one’s own illuminating deeds, entreating us to bring light to spaces large and small, and to fight darkness with resilience and light.

“‘The Mitzvot are a candle and the Torah is light’ (Proverbs 6:23). Mitzvot are candles that illuminate the world. King Solomon’s metaphors have deeper meaning during the eight days of Hanukkah, when we light a total of 36 candles (not counting the Shamash). Thirty-six equals ‘double Chai,’ two times life. This year, our broken world needs 36 candles matched by 36 mitzvot from each of us. Let’s commit to lighting 36 Hanukkah candles and performing 36 mitzvot during Hanukkah. Let’s bring double doses of life into people’s hearts, and eliminate darkness with the light of Torah. Let’s light up our world, 36 times each.”

 —Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Sephardic Educational Center & Westwood Village Synagogue

“Hanukkah asks us all to believe that miracles are possible, not only in our past, but here and now.” – Rabbi Naomi Levy

“We all need in-person connections during this Hanukkah: family gatherings and returning to the warmth of community which can lift our spirits and remind us we are never alone. Hanukkah teaches us that in the face of darkness, we have a critical role to play. The Source of Light prays that we will Be a Light, shine a light and share our light to our people and to our world. 

Hanukkah teaches us Jewish pride; we are asked to publicize the miracle of light, not to keep it as a secret. Hanukkah asks us all to believe that miracles are possible, not only in our past, but here and now. At Nashuva, we will be gathering outdoors on Friday, December 3rd at Clover Park in Santa Monica at 6:30 pm for a Shabbat Hanukkah service and celebration with the kindling of Hanukkah and Shabbat lights, festive music and prayers, sufganiyot and gelt for all! 

 —Rabbi Naomi Levy
Founder and Spiritual Leader, Nashuva

“On the first night of Hanukkah, the oldest in the family should remind us that we light the candle to commemorate not merely the ancient miracle of the Maccabees, but also the modern miracle of November 27, 1947 (nine days before Hanukkah) when the United Nations vote reaffirmed the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in the land of Israel (the second miracle is that it has already lasted 73 years, more than the Hasmonean Kingdom). The youngest in the family should then read the text of UN Resolution 181, and the whole family should join by singing, ‘Al Hanissim’.”

—Dr. Judea Pearl
Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, UCLA
President, The Daniel Pearl Foundation 

“Holocaust survivors embody the themes of Hanukkah – finding light in the darkness, resilience and strength. Take the time this holiday to learn from a survivor.  We learn so much when survivors share their personal experiences and stories of courage and hope in our museum’s weekly talks. It is our shared responsibility to preserve their memories and steward their messages.”

 —Beth Kean
CEO, Holocaust Museum LA

“If we slow down for a moment… we can see in each other the very same holy presence that lives inside the flame.” — Rabbi Noah Farkas

“If you look close enough, you’ll see a small pocket of air between the wick and the flame. It’s tiny and can only be seen if you really concentrate. Scientists say that it’s where combustion happens. The flame we see is the byproduct of an event that we can’t detect but know is there. The rabbis teach that this same space is God’s presence, fluttering between candle and flame; a happening that we cannot detect, but we know is there. As the world rushes back to life and everyone is in a hurry to move about, we rush to judgment and are quick to get ahead.  We speed towards our own self-righteousness.  But if we slow down for a moment and light the candles together, we can see in each other the very same holy presence that lives inside the flame.”

 —Rabbi Noah Farkas
Incoming President and CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

“As we are deep into our Sh’mitah (Sabbatical) Year, it’s a great opportunity for those of us with young children to convert Hanukkah from a holiday of consumption into a deepening of our Being. Eight experiences will replace presents after candle lighting this year – Astronomy Lessons under the Moonless Sky, Pajama Dance Parties, Family History Interviews, Puppy Mani-Pedi (woof!), and most importantly, a diachronic study of ‘What is Hanukkah?’ Looking at the history of how this miraculous holiday came together, each night offers a different lens of how we arrived to today – from Ancient Maccabees to Los Angeleans melting chocolate for the S’mores Night Candle. Hag Samaiach!” 

—Rabbi Lori Shapiro
Founder and Artistic Director, The Open Temple in Venice

“Remember that although Hanukkah describes an external battle, that keeping Judaism aglow is an internal struggle, one touching every Jewish soul.”
— Rabbi David Wolpe

We can reach out to someone we have quarreled with and make peace.
Listen to someone we have disagreed with and learn.
Say sorry to someone we have wronged.
Forgive someone who has wronged us.
And remember that although Hanukkah describes an external battle, that keeping Judaism aglow is an internal struggle, one touching every Jewish soul. 

— Rabbi David Wolpe
Max Webb Senior Rabbi, Sinai Temple

“Be kind to each other. Be understanding of each other. We have no idea what people are going through on the inside. Show compassion and understanding especially when the person is different than you.”

 —Chloe Pourmorady
Musical Artist & Educator

“One cannot help but feel that each day our country grows more divided, seemingly hopelessly so. We know that the consequences of this division are severe and dangerous. But Hanukkah reminds us that we can be true to our beliefs without denying others the right to believe otherwise. The Maccabees did not fight to impose their will on anyone else, but to defend our freedom to worship as we choose. I hope we all find inspiration in the Hanukkah miracle this year to engage in conversations that we might find unfamiliar or uncomfortable. That is the only way for our candles to bring added light and warmth this Hanukkah.”

—Sam Yebri
Candidate, Los Angeles City Council

“What I love about Hanukkah is how the Shamash lights all of the other candles and with each passing night another candle is lit. To me, this signifies that one candle, or one person, can spread kindness and light to others and kindness can be contagious. This year, we are finally seeing the light after the end of a dark tunnel, where we are able to live a bit more normally. Knowing that we, as a community, will all be lighting the candles together is a comforting sign that our community is strong and our world will finally find light once again.”

 —Riley Jackson
High school junior in Los Angeles. Founder of the Cancer Support Community and City of Hope’s Junior Boards; Founder of Driving with Daisy, a charity that supports underprivileged children.

“The only thing that truly exists is G-d. One of the highest holiest names for G-d is, Ohr Ayn Sof, which means ‘Light Without End.’ That means that the entire world is filled with the light of  G-d’s Oneness. Our job is to reveal that light. Every time we do a kindness for another person, we wipe away the darkness, and reveal a light that’s already there, that’s just waiting to shine even brighter.”

 —David Sacks
Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and host of the weekly podcast, “Spiritual Tools for an Outrageous World,” available at torahonitunes.com. 

“These past few years have been beyond challenging, so how do we not give into the darkness?   

In my personal life and work at the drug center I have learned that:

By never giving up (I first learned that from my father and later from Rabbi Hurwitz)
By increasing good deeds and acts of kindness (I learned that from The Rebbe)
By decreasing our anger and speaking gently (I learned that from the Ramban)
And that by living with Geula (redemption) eyes, knowing G-d is always guiding us (I learned that from Chassidus)…
We uplift our challenges and bring new light!” 

 —Dr. Donna Miller
Executive Clinical Director, Chabad Treatment Center

“The Biblical commandment to Israel is to be ‘a light among the nations.’ This takes the form of reaching out to others and being of benefit. The Hanukkah candles symbolize this idea of being a source of light and inspiration for others. As our sages stated — even a little light banishes great darkness. Israel’s light takes many forms, from global humanitarian aid, sharing knowledge and experience in the fight against COVID-19, leading in essential fields of innovation, just to name a few examples. Israel will continue to work to spread the light of peace and progress, together with communities around the world. Therefore, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, should also be a festival of outreach, which will bring forth further light to our communities.

 —Dr. Hillel Newman
Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles

“We should place our menorahs in front of our windows and share our light with the world by presenting our Jewish pride.”
– Chloe Levian

“This Hanukkah, we can be a light among the darkness. We should place our menorahs in front of our windows and share our light with the world by presenting our Jewish pride. This Hanukkah, we can also shine a light on antisemitism. Bruins for Israel is excited to participate in a StandWithUs Campus campaign and engage with our peers by inviting them to learn about antisemitism and how they can stand with their Jewish peers. This is an opportunity for non-Jewish students to take a stand as allies with the Jewish community at UCLA.”

 —Chloe Levian
President, Bruins for Israel, UCLA

“There are two distinct features of light: Light illuminates, casts a warm glow, and causes things to shine. And light connects — it can only exist connected to its source, not if there’s anything blocking it. We each can be a light, in the sense of sharing warmth, illumination, and connection — especially in such dark times. But also, by tapping into the depth within ourselves that truly shines and is connected to our deepest essence, and sharing that light with ourselves and others.

This Hanukkah, make sure to kindle the lights. But also, BE a light, and help bring the light everywhere you can.”

—Rabbi Dov Wagner
Chabad Jewish Student Center at USC 

“Never forget to laugh, no matter what time of year.” — Mark Schiff

“Most Jewish comedians who talk about the holidays talk more about Christmas than Hanukah. I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that most of the Hanukah jokes are actually written either by non-Jews.

Here’s one:

A Jewish guy’s mother gives him two sweaters for Hanukah. The next time he visits her, he makes sure to wear one. As he walks into the house, his mother frowns and asks, ‘What?  You didn’t like the other one?’

That joke was ok. It might even get a laugh if the audience had been drinking most of the night.

Here’s another one:

A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Hanukah.

After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his says, ‘I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles.’

‘She did,’ he replies. ‘But where was I going to find a fake Jeep?’

Finally, one that I consider funny.

An old Jewish couple, Harry and Sadie, were married for 35 years but never got along…

One day around Hanukah time of the year, he said to her, ‘So? I suppose you’ll be wanting a Hanukah present?’

She says to him, ‘Harry, I want a divorce.’

Harry says, ‘I wasn’t planning on spending that much.’

Happy Hanukkah. Never forget to laugh, no matter what time of year.”

—Mark Schiff
Comedian, actor and writer

“Pick up trash on the street when you see it.

Seek first to understand instead of judging others.

Share Jewish culture and history with Jews and non-Jews in any opportunity that presents itself.

Support our unhoused neighbors whether by a conversation, doing a hygiene drive or organizing a holiday meal.

Tell yourself every day, there but for the grace of G-d go I, and thereby surround your life and those you touch with gratitude.

Adopt the world right in front of you and fill all the cracks up with acts of kindness.”

—Adeena Bleich
Senior Project Coordinator, Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services

“The survivors and witnesses of hate violence offer perspective and insight that binds our communities together and builds respect for human life. Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, who also survived the October 2018 attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, gives a message of hope in his USC Shoah Foundation testimony: ‘I have the right to believe that the world is a rotten place. But I don’t. Today I am also interested to spread the word because people don’t know. Whatever you do, don’t hate. Because it is going to consume you, too, eventually. Love your neighbor as thyself.’”

—Dr. Stephen Smith
Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation

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