Rabbi Avremel Caroline

Local Jewish leader advocates for perseverance and resilience in light of continuing anti-Semetic violence

Editor’s Note: A column from Key Biscayne Rabbi Avremel Caroline in response to the Saturday stabbing in New York during a Chanukah celebration.

Last Saturday, Jews were singled out for yet another heinous act of senseless anti-Semitic violence. Five Jews were hospitalized after being stabbed during a Menorah lighting at the home of their rabbi in Monsey, NY.

How painful. We are saddened, disturbed and outraged. The rise of anti-Semitic attacks in our country is indisputable, and the amount of hatred, oppression, and violence we are experiencing is outrageous.

Yet, in the true spirit of Chanukah, our response must be one of strength, not weakness; one of courage, not fear. The story of Chanukah took place at a time of oppression to the Jewish people. A time of hatred and evil. Yet the Jews responded with valiant courage, with the conviction that goodness will prevail over evil, that light will dispel darkness.

Turning to the story of Chanukah for guidance, there are lessons we can learn that are of paramount importance. My spiritual leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, known as the Rebbe, would often say that we have to “listen” to the message the lights of the Menorah are telling us. Turning to the flames of the Menorah, they tell us of the two distinct miracles that are celebrated on Chanukah, each with profound relevance to the present challenges.

The first miracle took place when the Syrian Greeks rose up against the Jewish people with hatred and violence, committed to prohibiting the Jewish way of life. The Jews were few and their enemies many. They were weak and their enemies strong. Yet they stood up against the hate with bravery and determination, and they were miraculously victorious, restoring the Jews’ right to practice Judaism freely.

In 2020 this message couldn't be more relevant. We must stand up against hate. We must not let it be tolerated. We must condemn it unequivocally. This is a responsibility not just of the Jewish community, but of the entire community. As the UK prime minister Boris Johnson said so poignantly, “When the Maccabees drove the forces of darkness out of Jerusalem, they had to do so on their own. Today, as Britain's Jews seek to drive back the darkness of resurgent anti-Semitism, you have every decent person in this country fighting by your side.”

That is the message Jewish communities everywhere need to be hearing from their leaders.

The second miracle of Chanukah, the one which is more famously celebrated, is the miracle of the oil. How a small amount of oil burned for eight days, bringing light to dispel the darkness. Security, protection and condemnations are absolutely critical, but they don't dispel the darkness. These can strip hate of its power, but the hate is still there. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I believe that each of us has the ability, and therefore the responsibility, to bring light to those within our sphere of influence. We must teach others to be thoughtful citizens, and we must equip them with the tools they need to reject hateful ideologies. Every one of us can promote peace, acceptance, and kindness, and we can influence others to do the same.

The message I hear from the flames of the menorah this year is that our community is determined to stand together and face down growing anti-Semitism throughout the United States and the world, with a defiant dose of Jewish pride. That we are determined to spread the light of goodness and kindness, which will dispel the darkness of hate and violence. That together, goodness will prevail over evil, that darkness will be dispelled by light.