As a Sephardic Jew (Arabic Jew of Moroccan descent) we typically celebrate Hanukkah, a tradition borne out of the Maccabee’s courage and rededication of the Temple after a battle against King Antiochus. By returning to and reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees recommitted themselves to a Jewish way of life. The Hanukah celebration asks folx to rededicate themselves to the values we place at the center of our faith: TIkkun Olam, repair of the world.  

It’s interesting to note that one of the practices of placing our chanukiyot (menorah) in our window to spread the light was used by the town of Billings, Montana in 1992 to fight back against a scourge of xenophobia and racism (Book source: A Light in Every Window by Josephine Baskin Minow (Author), Mira Singer (Illustrator)) 

There are four anti-oppression principles/practices that individuals can learn more about Hanukkah and help celebrate this festival of lights in a way that supports justice and TIkkum Olam: practicing principles of climate justice, economic justice, liberation for all, and religious freedom.  

The story of the miracle of one night’s oil lasting eight is a reminder of the importance of conservation. We know how the current climate predicament we are in affects BIPOC and other socio-economically depressed communities the most. By dedicating ourselves to transforming our extractive society to a renewable one and practicing green investments, and the giving of gifts that don’t lead to more consumption, we can celebrate the miracle of light by ensuring Earth is conserved. 

When it comes to economic justice, the current model of commercialism in fact goes against the true meaning of Hanukkah. This holiday can be a time to reflect on how constant gift giving in fact produces economic injustice all over our world as we feed exploitative labour practices both abroad and here at home.  What is a gift if it is made by suffering hands? Why not seek transformative actions that remove neoliberalism and privatization? Instead one can support co-operative practices and mutual aid andsupport local businesses and industries that practice fair trade and fair labour practices.  

During Hanukah we read Al HaNissim, a prayer giving thanks for our freedoms. This reminds me of the ideas presented by movements such as Black Lives Matter which proclaim “No life can matter until Black Lives Matter”. We truly are not free while anyone remains oppressed. To suggest such is to use power and privilege to perpetuate violence onto others, not celebrate freedom. We should always remember to seek equality in freedom, not in oppression. As we light the Hannukah lights we should always think of how we can be an accomplice in liberation for all people around us, our BIPOC family, our Muslim family, our Queer family, etc.  

The reality of how Hanukkah came about is that it came out of a failed attempt to end religious liberty.  As we celebrate this festival, we must always dedicate ourselves to making sure all faiths are free to practice.  

Hanukah was never about gifts and getting. It was always a fight for justice. Tikkun Olam is not just an idea, it is a practice we can all be dedicated to so that we are all free to celebrate in the most just and joyous of ways. 

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