2017-12-06 / Editorial

Chanukah’s light burns bright in the quest for religious freedom

When we celebrate Chanukah next week, we will be honoring our ancestors who prevailed in the first known fight for religious freedom.

As our Chanukah story is told: A wicked ruler of ancient times wanted to force Jews to abandon their traditions and instead be more like everyone else. Led by the Maccabees, a ragtag rebel force of devoted Jews defied them, heroically defeating the ruler and restoring traditional rituals in the Jerusalem Temple.

This proud story is ours, yet the theme is one that resonates with all people who cherish religious freedom. The festival of lights has become an inspiration for other minority groups that have embarked on national and religious liberation struggles against all odds. The victory it represents is of faith and liberty over cynicism and opportunism, optimism over pessimism and the rights of the few to live how they choose and thrive within a dominant culture.

During this festive time, we should reflect on our good fortune to be in a country in which religious freedom is such a deeply valued founding principle. Despite the fact that religious liberty is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are so many areas of the world where Jews – and other people – are still persecuted for following their beliefs.

Shockingly, four out of five people around the world live in countries that lack the freedoms to live and worship as they please, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Christians and Muslims, who make up the largest share of the world’s population, are the most widely harassed faiths, but there has also been a noticeable rise in anti-Semitism.

As Jews, we must advocate for religious freedoms not only for our people; we must support all peace-loving people living under such threats worldwide. The flame of religious freedom must continue to burn bright.

May it be a truly happy Chanukah for Jews everywhere! 

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