In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review December 6, 2007 / 26 Kislev 5768

Dreaming of a ‘Green’ Chanukah?

By Jonathan Tobin

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Distorting the meaning of this festival isn't a harmless holiday exercise

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The holiday hijackers are at it again! First, Passover was transformed from an inspiring commemoration of the birth of the Jewish nation during the Exodus from Egypt into a catch-all festival that celebrates the rights of every afflicted minority and fashionable cause imaginable.

Now, it's Chanukah's turn.

This year, more groups are again seeking to use the old festival of lights to force feed whatever cultural or political theme appeals to them down the throats of the Jewish public.

Some who have jumped on the ecology bandwagon, now so pervasive in American culture, want to reinvent Chanukah as a "green" holiday, in which energy conservation and activism against global warming are foremost in our minds.

In fact, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs want us all to switch to more efficient "compact fluorescent light bulbs" — though perhaps what they really want is for us to stop displaying those electric Chanukah menorahs in our windows altogether.

The notion of using the idea of the Chanukah miracle of the one day's supply of oil in the holy Temple that lasted for eight days as a metaphor for conservation, as the JCPA claims, may be a stretch, but it is clever.

Not content to merely ride the ecology hobbyhorse this December, the mainstream JCPA also wants to use the season as a prop in its campaign to raise awareness of poverty. It is backing a "Candle of Righteousness" initiative with the Reform and Conservative movements that seeks to teach about the needs of the less fortunate by encouraging families to donate their holiday gifts to groups that help the poor.

That's a nice idea, especially since it can assist American Jewish parents in weaning their kids away from the idea of Chanukah as a Jewish Christmas in which the toys flow for eight days instead of one.

But the good intentions and causes highlighted by some of these faux Chanukah campaigns notwithstanding, this trend is not something we should regard as entirely benign.

That groups and religious denominations which seek to attract an increasingly assimilated Jewish population should resort to such gimmicks is hardly a surprise, nor is it without purpose. By making Chanukah more "relevant" to a host of contemporary issues, the promoters of these themes cannot only advance the causes they favor but also can, albeit indirectly, reintroduce their audience to the powerful message of their own traditions.

The truth is, for all too many American Jews, Chanukah is merely a blue-tinsel copy of Christmas or an androgynous celebration that can blend with it as the "Chrismukkah" cards and TV shows try to tell us.

Though the tension between the parochial Jewish aspect of our faith and its more universalist tendencies is as old as Judaism itself, Chanukah is not an empty metaphor into which non-Jewish narratives can be poured at will. It is, in fact, probably the last holiday into which we should be trying to shoehorn unrelated themes.

Far from being a Jewish version of "goodwill toward men" or any other trendy contemporary cause, the original story of Chanukah is about something very different: the refusal of Jews to bow down to the idols of the popular culture of their day, and to remain resolutely separate and faithful to their own traditions.

Even more to the point — and so often completely eliminated from the stories we tell our kids and even ourselves — Chanukah is the story of a particularly bloody Jewish civil war.

Wicked King Antiochus and his Syrian Greeks and their plans to force Jews to abandon the Torah and embrace Hellenism are surely the bad guys of the tale. But there's little doubt that for the original Maccabees, the real villains were the many Jews who embraced assimilation into the pervasive and seductive culture of the Greek world. It was these collaborators that Mattathias and his sons really wanted to wipe out — and eventually they did just that. Even though the descendants of the victors of this war were themselves a feckless and assimilated lot, whose misrule led eventually to domination of the country by Rome, the outcome of the original revolt has stood ever since as a warning against the dangers of discarding our faith for previously owned versions of others' beliefs.

That has to be a frightening message for an American Jewry which struggles to hold its own against the blandishments of the non-Jewish world.

Yet for all of the changes in the Jewish world that have taken place in the last 2,200 years, the message of the Maccabees is still strikingly pertinent to our current situation.

Diaspora Jewry faces enormous challenges that threaten its future via assimilation, and Israel continues to remain under siege. So, maybe what Americans should be doing is using Chanukah to highlight something that might actually resonate with its true meaning: as a centerpiece of a campaign to expand and raise the quality of Jewish education in this country.

Going green may be trendier, but surely it would be more relevant to take up the fight of the Maccabees against forces that are destroying our traditions of learning. We could do this by finally rallying our communities to support the idea that day-school Jewish education ought to be available to more than just the rich among us. Similarly, we could increase our efforts to improve the quality of the synagogue schools for the Jewish kids who are sent there.

And perhaps instead of merely changing a few light bulbs, Chanukah would also be an apt time to try to get more American Jews to actually visit Israel, rather than just talk about it, a measure that is vitally important to the future of Jewish kids who may just be able to hold onto some shred of their identity.

It's no small irony that, while so many of us are working overtime to superimpose other causes, no matter how worthy, onto our traditions, many in the Arab and Islamic world are seeking to erase Jewish history altogether as part of their war against modern Israel. Such efforts may seem absurd to us, but when set against the knee-jerk universalism of much of Diaspora Jewry, their effectiveness should not be underestimated.

It may be that many of us are so alienated from our Jewish roots that secular holiday themes have more meaning to us than the Jewish ones. Yet rather than surrendering to this true December dilemma, this time of year should be a reminder that it takes the extraordinary efforts, as well as the faith of ordinary people, to keep the flame of Jewish civilization burning bright in each generation.

Our tradition teaches us that the victory of the Maccabees was ensured by faith. In order for that to happen, courageous individuals had to step forward. The same is true today. If they do, then perhaps American Jewry's leaders and organizations, who seem so eager to downplay the specific character of our holidays, will someday follow.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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