Anti-Semitism ‘on the rise’ in Europe

For some years now in Belgium we see a bad evolution, similar as the trend was evolving in the 1930s Berlin.

Media creating an idea of danger

Once a world full of entertainment and “joy de vivre”, without financial restriction the people loved to have their freedom, going out until late in the morning.  Being drunk they passed others, but found themselves, by their anti-social behaviour more looked at. This annoyed them. with the financial crisis they also saw that they could not any more enjoy their going out “a volonté” and could not have so many trips to other countries any more. Aannoying as well was that some cheaper regions became more dangerous because of Muslim Fundamentalists. Those also came more in the news and tried to get more Belgians involved in their ‘road to Damascus’. Sharia for Belgium took care that the Muslim community came in a worse picture, and the media did the rest to present all those Muslims as a danger for our community.

The banks corrupting and the financial market bringing down the people with the little savings while the Jews still kept the thriving market of jewellery. Seeing those sometimes ‘poorly’ black dressed Jews was a sneer in the face of those who envied their money.

Antisemitism is one of the most alarming examples of how prejudice can endure, lingering on for centuries, curbing Jewish people’s chances to enjoy their legally guaranteed rights to human dignity, freedom of thought, conscience and religion or non-discrimination. Despite European Union (EU) and Member States’ best efforts, many Jews across the EU continue to face insults, discrimination, harassment and physical violence that may keep them from living
their lives openly as Jews. Nevertheless, there is little concrete information available on the extent and nature of antisemitism that Jewish people encounter in the EU today – whether at work, in public places, at school or in the media – information critical to policy makers seeking to craft effective solutions to bring an end to such discrimination.

Nazi Anti-Semitic propaganda at Yad Vashem

Nazi Anti-Semitic propaganda at Yad Vashem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Data by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has reported on the available official and unofficial data on antisemitic incidents in its Annual report on Fundamental rights: challenges and achievements, as well as in a separate annual working paper – Antisemitism: Summary overview of the situation in the EU – which presents trends on the available data covering up to 10 years. This provides a long-term view of the developments concerning
antisemitic incidents. These reports are part of FRA’s body of work on hate crime, shining light on the experiences of various groups such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons, immigrants and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities.

The available data fail to answer many questions, however, which are of keen interest to policy makers looking to improve responses to antisemitic acts. Effective solutions require information on the types of antisemitic incidents, the context in which they take place and the reasons why many incidents are not reported at all, indeed, why official statistics markedly underestimate the number of antisemitic incidents and the number of people exposed to these acts.
Furthermore, even the most basic official statistics on antisemitic incidents are not available in many EU Member States.

Need for rallying against something

For some it might be clear that people need something to rally against to stay united. A good example of that we could see in the ‘Cold War’ where we had the West against the East, the Americans against the Soviets. Many do think it was the best time when they had the USA to rally against the USSR. Several Americans do find they have come to sit in a slow-motion train wreck of a divisive, culturally degenerative society ever since the Soviet Union ceased to give them purpose and unity.

Others consider that certain people are looking for it by placing themselves as a separate people. They are convinced that the Jewish religion encourages a separate identity for Jews, asking them to keep themselves apart in certain respects from the cultures they live within. That naturally can lead to conflict. People hate certain Christians for much the same reason. Those who want to follow the Only One God undergo the difficulty of ‘not being of this world’ and still having ‘to be part of this world’. Non-trinitarians are as ridiculed and confounded as the Jews who have the same God of Abraham. (Check in your own environment how people do think for example of Jehovah Witnesses.)

Blamed for suffering

It's not a question of religion, the Jew is of...

It’s not a question of religion, the Jew is of a different race and the enemy of ours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Historically, Jews have had religious traditions and doctrines that have allowed them to thrive (or at least survive) where others have struggled. Because those people did follow the Laws of the Divine Creator somehow they also where protected and blessed by this Creator God. They also seemed to cope better with their struggle for life and their suffering, which was a thorn in the flesh for the people around them who underwent more difficulties with the same problems.

During the Black Plague, Jews washed themselves more often than once a year, which reduced their infection rate; they were blamed.
Due to Christian bans on usury, they were inevitably the money lenders; they were blamed.

Having been able to cope with many diseases, many terrible incidents, every-time springing up again, like not destroyable weed, always forming one union with their community, combined with being members of a highly visible minority where race and religion are not equal but intermingled, is sufficient to trigger envy by others who also look at the actions taken in Israel where walls are build and Palestinians provoked.

2012 Survey

5,847 self-identified Jewish people (aged 16 years or over) in eight EU Member States – Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the
United Kingdom gave their answers for the survey which was carried out online during September and October 2012.

Two thirds of the survey respondents (66 %) consider antisemitism to be a problem across the eight EU Member States surveyed, while on average three quarters of the respondents (76 %) also believe that the situation has become more acute and that antisemitism has increased in the country where they live over the past five years. In the 12 months following the survey, close to half of the respondents (46 %) worry about being verbally insulted or harassed in a public place because they are Jewish, and one third (33 %) worry about being physically attacked in the country where they live because they are Jewish. Furthermore, 66 % of parents or grandparents of school-aged children worry that their children could be subjected to antisemitic verbal insults or harassment at school or en route, and 52 % worry that they would be physically attacked with an antisemitic motive while at school or en route. In the past 12 months, over half of all survey respondents (57 %) heard or saw someone claim that the Holocaust was a myth or that it has been exaggerated.

Protecting Jewish people from discrimination

About one quarter of respondents (23 %) said that they have felt discriminated against on the grounds of their religion or ethnic background in the 12 months preceding the survey. Specifically concerning discrimination because of being Jewish, the respondents in all eight EU Member States indicate that they are most likely to experience discrimination at the workplace (11 % of respondents who were working during the period have experienced this), when looking for work (10 % of respondents who have been looking for work) or on the part of people working in the education sector (8 % of respondents in school or training or whose children were in school or training have felt discriminated against by people working in this area). More than three quarters (82 %) of those who said that they have felt discriminated against during the period because they are Jewish did not report the most serious incident, namely the one that most affected them, to any authority or organisation.

Antisemitism on the internet

Antisemitism on the internet – including, for example, antisemitic comments made in discussion forums and on social networking sites – is a significant concern for a majority of respondents. Overall, 75 % of respondents consider antisemitism online to be a problem, while another 73 % believe antisemitism online has increased over the last five years.
More than 80 % of the respondents living in Belgium, France, Hungary and Italy are concerned by the level of antisemitism on the internet which they say has increased either a lot or a little. Antisemitic hostility in public places and antisemitism in the media are the next two manifestations that respondents are most likely to perceive as on the rise.

Meeting the needs of Jewish victims of hate crime

Antisemitism in Budapest Gyermekavasut

Antisemitism in Budapest Gyermekavasut (Photo credit: Yigal Chamish)

One quarter of respondents (26 %) experienced some form of antisemitic harassment in the 12 months preceding the survey – including various offensive and threatening acts, for example, receiving written anti-semitic messages, phone calls, being followed or receiving offensive antisemitic comments in person or on the internet, according to the survey results. Overall, 4 % of respondents experienced physical violence or threats of violence because they are Jewish in the 12 months preceding the survey. Of all respondents, 3 % on average said that their personal property has been deliberately vandalised, because they are Jewish, in the 12 months preceding the survey. A majority of the victims of anti-semitic harassment (76 %), physical violence or threats (64 %), or vandalism of personal property (53 %) did not report the most serious incident, namely the one that most affected the respondent, in the past five years to the police or to any other organisation protecting Jewish people from discrimination The relative position of antisemitism on the list of other social and political issues varies slightly among the EU Member States surveyed. When asked to consider whether each of the items presented is a problem or not in the country where they live, the respondents rated unemployment (85 % saying that it was ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’), state of the economy (78 %) and racism (72 %) ahead of antisemitism (66 %) in terms of the present magnitude of the problem. Anti-semitism was followed as a problem, respondents said, by crime levels (62 %), immigration (59 %), religious intolerance (54 %), state of health services (51 %) and government corruption (40 %). In contrast with other countries, in Germany antisemitism was regarded as the greatest problem (61 %) in comparison to the other issues listed in the survey, such as unemployment (59 %), racism (57 %) or others.

Respondents from all the EU Member States surveyed except of Germany – consider unemployment to be the most pressing issue facing the country where they live.
Over 90 % of respondents in five countries (France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and the United Kingdom) saw the state of the economy as ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’. Respondents in Germany and Sweden seem less concerned with the state of the economy – 41 % and 25 % of the respondents, respectively, said it is ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’.

Most pressing social and political issues

Antisemitism was rated among the three most pressing social and political issues in France, Germany and Sweden (85 %, 61 % and 60 %, respectively, considered it ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’). In a pattern that differs slightly from the other survey countries, respondents in Belgium viewed – besides unemployment – crime levels and immigration as the problems which most affect the country where they live (81 % and 80 %, respectively).

Respondents in Hungary and Italy alone considered government corruption to be among the top three problems in the country where they live (94 % of respondents voiced this opinion in both countries). A notable share of respondents in Latvia and the United Kingdom identified the state of health services as a problem (92 % and 69 % of respondents, respectively).

Respondents were also asked whether they felt that antisemitism has increased or decreased during the past five years in the country where they live. Antisemitism is reported to be on the increase – having increased ‘a lot’ or increased ‘a little’ – by a majority of respondents in all eight EU Member States surveyed . The percentage of respondents indicating that antisemitism has increased over the past five years was especially high (about 90 %) in Belgium, France and Hungary. These are also the countries, as shown earlier, where the respondents were most likely to say that antisemitism is ‘a very
big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’ today.

Manifestations and Attacks to affect community

Antisemitic attacks have a profound impact not only on the individuals concerned and those close to them, but certain manifestations of antisemitism also affect the Jewish community as a whole.

Among the specific manifestations listed, online antisemitism is seen as a particular problem: three quarters of all respondents (75 %) consider this either ‘a very big’ or a ‘fairly big problem’, and almost as many (73 %) believe that it hasincreased over the past five year.

59 % of the respondents feel that antisemitism in the media is ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’, while 54 % say the same about expressions of hostility towards Jews in the street and other public places. Half (50 %) consider desecration of cemeteries to be a problem.

The majority of the respondents in France (84 %), Belgium (74 %) and Hungary (72 %) consider expressions of hostility towards Jews in the street and other public spaces to be ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’ in the country. In Sweden (51 %) and Germany (48 %), about half the respondents consider it a problem, while in Italy (30 %) or the United Kingdom (35 %) one third of the respondents do so.

Arena’s

Regarding the four arenas where antisemitic comments may occur and comparing the eight survey countries, respondents from Belgium, France and Hungary indicate in particular antisemitic reporting in the media (64 %, 70 %, and 71 %, respectively, to be ‘a very big problem’ or ‘a fairly big problem’) and antisemitic comments in discussions people have (69 %, 72 %, and 76 %, respectively). Respondents in France and Hungary (87 % each) highlight political speeches and discussions. Respondents in Latvia were less likely than those in the other countries surveyed to highlight any of the four arenas as very or fairly problematic with regard to spreading antisemitic content. In Sweden and the United Kingdom, less than half of all respondents consider that  antisemitic content is ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big problem’ in three of the four arenas, with the exception of antisemitism on the internet, for which respondents living in those two countries also give a higher rating, seeing it as a problem.

Prevalence and context of negative statements about Jews

Hearing or seeing statements that offend human dignity by assigning fictional negative attributes to individuals as members of a group can be detrimental to Jewish people’s sense of safety and security and undermine their ability to live their lives openly as Jews. The FRA survey addresses this issue by asking respondents to what extent they have been exposed to certain statements selected for the survey, and whether they consider these statements antisemitic. The statements selected cover various issues including the role of the Jewish community in society, their interests and distinctiveness, attitudes towards historical experiences and current issues. These statements do not necessarily reflect the whole spectrum of antisemitic views or connotations. They were used to guide the respondent into thinking about situations where they may have heard negative comments about Jewish people, in order to identify the contexts in which Jewish people hear these comments and to describe the person or persons who made the comments.
Respondents’ assessments concerning these statements offer an insight into the issues which they consider antisemitic. Respondents’ sensitivity to all things (perceived as) antisemitic has an impact on all of the other survey results.
First, the survey respondents were asked how often they have heard or seen non-Jewish people make these statements, in what contexts they have heard or seen them, and respondents’ perceptions concerning those who made these statements. The information concerning the medium used for making these statements and the context in which they are made can help the EU and its Member States in designing measures to counteract the use of such statements, for example, through awareness-raising and education campaigns.

Worrying level of discrimination

Antisemitism casts a long shadow on Jewish people’s chances to enjoy their legally guaranteed rights to human dignity, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and non-discrimination. The daily insults, discrimination, harassment and even physical violence, with which Jewish people across the European Union (EU) must contend, show few signs of abating, despite EU and EU Member States’ best efforts. Nevertheless, little information exists on the extent and nature of antisemitic crimes to guide policy makers seeking to effectively fight these crimes. This FRA survey is the first-ever to collect comparable data on Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of antisemitism, hate-motivated crime and discrimination across a number of EU Member States,  specifically in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Its findings reveal a worrying level of discrimination, particularly in employment and education, a widespread fear of victimisation and heightening concern about antisemitism online.
By shining light on crimes that all too often remain unreported and therefore invisible, this FRA report seeks to help put an end to them.

More to be done

John Mann, chair of the UK’s all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism, said he was shocked by the survey’s results.

“It is extraordinary that 75 years after the terrible events of Kristallnacht, Jews are again living in fear,” he said. “The inaction of the European commission in combating antisemitism is inexcusable.”

Mann said the EU had to do more to co-ordinate Holocaust education work and to crack down on online antisemitism.

“The internet is a classic EU territory because it crosses borders and the EU could have a huge impact – if it had a thorough approach to antisemitism and other hatred and abuse on the internet,” he said.

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism and provides security for the UK Jewish community, said the research showed that much more needed to be done to protect Jewish people across Europe.

“In some countries, including Britain, politicians and police are trying to deal with the problem, but these efforts are sorely needed everywhere,” the spokesman said.

“Jews also require basic anti-racist solidarity in all of this – solidarity that has been partial, or deliberately denied, far too often since the year 2000.”

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Please do find also to read:

  1. Ambassador Gutman and the relationship between the inhabitants of Belgium
  2. Built on or Belonging to Jewish tradition #3 Of the earth or of God
  3. Migrants to the West #7 Religions
  4. Pupils asked ‘why do some people hate Jews?’ in GCSE exam
  5. What Are The Sources Of Anti-Semitism? or Why do people hate Jews?
  6. Stand Up
  7. Religion, fundamentalism and murder
  8. Christian fundamentalism as dangerous as Muslim fundamentalism
  9. Welfare state and Poverty in Flanders #3 Right to Human dignity
  10. Jehovah’s Witnesses not only group that preach the good news
  11. A world in denial
  12. Judeo-Christian values and liberty
  13. Anti-Semitic incidents in Australia in 2012 highest ever on record

In Dutch:

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To me, it demonstrates the outdated mentality of a post-war generation. Too many of us are trapped in an anachronistic mind-set, always looking out for examples of antisemitism, always trying to “catch it on the edge of a remark” (as Harold Abrahams put it in Chariots of Fire).
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Being Jewish today can be a lot of fun. I work and socialise primarily with non-Jews, so I milk the Jewish angle whenever possible. I wear a chai necklace, drop Yiddish words into conversation and grow a beard and a Jewfro during the winter months.

Jews could hardly be better-positioned in our multicultural society, part of the mainstream but retaining a crucial bit of edginess. It’s a good place to be. The same goes for America, where the pollster Mark Penn now uses the voter category, philosemite, to describe people who either wanted to marry a Jew or emulate Jewish values.

Of course I’m not suggesting antisemitism is dead. It is an ancient and insidious prejudice that will exist as long as we do. There is still plenty of antisemitism in Britain, whether it’s troglodyte football fans chanting about Auschwitz or belligerent anti-Zionists obsessing over Jewish media influence.

 

  • EU Study: Jews in Germany Fear Rising Anti-Semitism (spiegel.de)
    The survey’s results provide insight into the perceptions, experiences and self-conception of European Jews. Rather than supplying absolute figures on anti-Semitic attacks, the study focuses on the perceived danger of such attacks and how much the anxiety this causes affects their lives.
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    In Germany, the KPMD, a service for registering crimes, has recorded a decline in anti-Semitic crimes since 2009. However, by itself, that says nothing about the perceptions of Jews living in Germany. According to the FRA report, 63 percent of the Jewish respondents in Germany have avoided “wearing, carrying or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jews in public,” such as a skullcap (kippa). Likewise, 25 percent of them claimed to have considered emigrating from Germany in the last five years because they don’t feel safe there.

 

When it comes to the relative seriousness of anti-Semitism, Germany was the only country in which a majority (61%) of respondents said it was the greatest problem. Respondents from the other seven countries believed that unemployment was the most pressing issue.

 

  • Alarming early figures from Euro antisemitism poll (thejc.com)
    In France, thousands of Jews have moved to Israel, North America and Britain. In Hungary, the situation is also very concerning, but very different, deriving from far-right nationalists. Then, there is Malmo in Sweden, widely regarded as the worst example of a local community living in fear.

 

In Britain, we are relatively fortunate. CST and the police have had excellent relations since the 1990s and, over the past decade, our politicians have taken antisemitism increasingly seriously.

Many of our continental cousins look on with envy, and really need this survey to kick-start better responses from local officialdom.

  • Poll: 76% of European Jews Believe Anti-Semitism Is On The Rise in Europe (jpupdates.com)
    On the 75th anniversary of Kristelnacht, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has released the results of their first poll ever that they conducted on Jewish people’s experiences of antisemitic harassment, discrimination and hate crime in the EU. This report, which covers responses from 5,847 Jewish people in the eight countries in which some 90% of the estimated Jewish population in the EU live, will thus be a vital tool for EU decision makers and community groups to develop targeted legal and policy measures.

 

Hanukkahgiving or Thanksgivvukah

In 1888 the world could celebrate Thanksgiving and the start of the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah (Chanukah {חנוכה}) on the same day. In 2013 this happening now brought for some concerns, because this year the two feasts also come together but are by many mixed.

The convergence of the secular and sacred holidays is presenting opportunities for many Jews and challenges for others — including concerns about everything from extra preparation and party planning to those who think they will dilute or devalue both celebrations.

The dilemma is best illustrated by Hillel Day School teacher Lori Rashty, who recently watched eighth-grade students help second-graders plant their freshly painted hands onto paper to make the turkey, then transform the four finger feathers into candles to incorporate a menorah.

Image from a greeting card made by Jewish online gift shop ModernTribe.comWe are facing a real special Hanukkah – Thanksgiving holiday because we shall have to wait for an other for 79,000 years before we would encounter such an occasion again. Looking at what happens in the world now, this probably would not happen as such, because the Third World War shall have happened already and the Millennium shall also have been a fact, after which Christ Jesus shall have handed over the Kingdom of God again to his Father.

But now we can look at the double-barreled holiday, which in certain countries brings a kind of an exciting way for the kids to realize that it’s a special occasion for them.

The lunisolar nature of the Jewish calendar makes Hanukkah and other religious observances appear to drift slightly from year to year when compared to the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar. Jewish practice calls for the first candle of eight-day Hanukkah to be lit the night before Thanksgiving Day this year, so technically “Thanksgivukkah,” — or “Thanksgivvukah,” as the Hillel students spell it — falls on the “second candle” night.

At Hillel Day School, students entering the library see a colourful poster designed to provoke thoughts about the convergent holidays: Under a Thanksgivvukah headline are several questions, including

“How are Thanksgiving and Hanukkah alike?”

It may be very special to have Hanukkah and Thanksgiving on the same day. We should think about the creation, what God has given us all, believers in God and other believers. The secular element for Thanksgiving has been there always because it finds its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, celebrating the reaping of the harvest. In many countries the heathen also had their harvest-home or harvest-festival, where they celebrated the blessings they got from nature. In lots of places was celebrated that the year came to a good end and was hoped and prayed to the gods to go in a good Winter season.

Origin of Thanksgiving

The radical reformers of 1536, wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including the heathen Christmas and Easter, but hose festivals looked to traditionally embedded they did not manage to get them our of the Christian holiday festivals. Though for many serious Bible students and sincere Christians, who knew Christ Jesus was born on the 17th of October 4BCE, the celebration of the goddess of light was a celebration they did not want to associate with. Therefore they wanted to say thanks to their God, and remember the birth of Christ Jesus on an other day.

In the 16th century the heathen holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special or Divine providence.

English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, ...

The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Laing Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strangely enough for their holidays they also took secular happenings. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day. In the Autumn of 1621 William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, called for a day of thanksgiving and prayer after the colonists’ first harvest. An other thanksgiving day in 1623 celebrated rainfall after a drought. After 1630 a Day of Thanksgiving came to be observed every year after the harvest and other colonies in New England gradually adopted the practice. In the South the custom did not appear till 1855.

President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. Traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday in November, it was changed by the act of congress in 1941 to the fourth Thursday of November.

The first Canadian Thanksgiving or Jour de l’Action de grâce is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher, in thanks not for the harvest but for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs.

In Holland some commemorate the hospitality the Pilgrims received in Leiden on their way to the New World and thank God for His provisions. {Many of the Pilgrims who migrated to the Plymouth Plantation had resided in the city of Leiden from 1609–1620, many of whom had recorded their births, marriages and deaths at the Pieterskerk.}

Most of the U.S. aspects of Thanksgiving (such as the turkey), were incorporated when United Empire Loyalists began to flee from the United States during the American Revolution and settled in Canada. The Canadians celebrate it annually on the second Monday in October.

Origin of Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication, the Feast of Light

Antiochus IV Epiphanes had, because of his frustration not to extirpate the Jewish faith, desecrated the Second Temple of Jerusalem. To observe the rededication of the temple in 165 BCE {Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire} , a celebration of 8 days, beginning Kislev 25 (according to the Hebrew calendar), had to bring to the memory the indistinguishable and ever spreading Jewish faith. The ceremony also recalls the Talmud story of how a small, one-day supply of non desecrated oil miraculously burned in the temple for eight full days until new oil could be obtained.

English: Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanuk...

Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanukiah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Jews use a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah. { חנוכה (Hanukkah) is also the Hebrew acronym for ח נרות והלכה כבית הלל — “Eight candles, and the halakha is like the House of Hillel”. This is a reference to the disagreement between two rabbinical schools of thought — the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai — on the proper order in which to light the Hanukkah flames. Shammai opined that eight candles should be lit on the first night, seven on the second night, and so on down to one on the last night (because the miracle was greatest on the first day). Hillel argued in favor of starting with one candle and lighting an additional one every night, up to eight on the eighth night (because the miracle grew in greatness each day). Jewish law adopted the position of Hillel.}

Today on the first day of the festival the first arm is put on light. The second day a second candle is lighted. Progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (sometimes spelled shamas Hebrew: שמש‎, “attendant” or “warden”) or gabbai ((Hebrew: גבאי‎) and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.

In Sephardic families, the head of the household lights the candles, while in Ashkenazic families, all family members light.

A dedication to God

The name “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “חנך”, meaning “to dedicate”. the Jews want to show others around them that they are willing to  dedicate themselves fully to the Most High Creator, the Adonai Elohim יהוה {Jehovah} Who created the heavens and the earth and  said, “Let light come to be,” and light came to be (Genesis 1:3). It was the Messenger of יהוה {Jehovah} who appeared to Mosheh  (Moses) in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The God Who spoke often by the flames and should be are light in the darkness, is the One Who needs our attention. Those eight days we can meditate on His Works.

Jesus (Jeshua) also celebrated the Feast of lights or Hanukkah.

“22  then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. it was winter, 23 and Yeshua was walking around inside the temple area, in Shlomo’s colonnade.” (John 10:22-23 CJB)

When  Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon, he wanted to honour his Father and be thankful for all the things He did for him and his followers.

We do not have to go through Solomon’s porch any-more, but we do have to be thankful to our Creator like Jesus was thankful to Him. The Nazarene Jeshua remembered that in 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. Jeshua when he was alive never was called Jesus, Issou or ‘Hail Zeus’ and probably would not have liked it to be called that way. This name in honour of the Olympian “Father of gods and men”, the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology was only given many years later in Constantine’s time to adhere with the Roman Empire their gods and to have him as a part of a three-une god like in the Roman-Greek culture. By calling him the same as Zeus, Jeshua also could be called the god father, like Zeus. It was Antiochus who banned brit milah (circumcision) and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple (the sacrifice of pigs to the Greek gods was standard ritual practice in the Ancient Greek religion).

In the light of today

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...

Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today Christians do not need to have a circumcision and do not need to bring any offerings, so there is certainly not needed a  sacrifice of pigs.

Hanukkah is not a “Sabbath-like” holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, as specified in the Shulkhan Arukh. It is  and is celebrated with a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals.

For both occasions,  it is all about remembering the wonders of the Most High. The prayers and songs are presented to the Holy One who give us all things even when we may not deserve them. God has given his only begotten son Jeshua (Jesus Christ) who by giving his totally to his Father, presenting his body as a sacrifice, became the Messiah, the one who brought salvation to all people of the world.

“For Hanukkah, you usually just get presents and then for Thanksgiving you just eat. Now everything is just mixed together and I think that’s a great thing.”

said Jason Teper, an eighth-grader who was helping the second-graders with their menurkeys. But in many countries Hanukkah is in the first instance also a period of saying prayers to think God. In some countries the presents became more important. Also for the Christians the presenting food to the table of the lord, sharing the presents God has given us by the Work in nature,made lots of Christians concentrating on preparing a good festival meal at home for themselves. In many countries presents also became part of the holiday festival. For some Thanksgiving Day was such an important day like Christmas is/was for the Catholics.

Combined festivities

Saul Rube, Hillel’s dean of Judaic studies, said the light-hearted combinations of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah icons underscore a deeper bond: The Talmud, one of Judaism’s core texts, describes Hanukkah as a “holiday of thanksgiving.”

“The fact that you could meld our Jewish culture and the popular culture is such a wonderful opportunity, when so many times in December observant families feel … torn. They want to be part of that whole holiday season,” he said.

Rube said his Thanksgiving dinner table will have one notable addition: a challurkey, a loaf of Jewish challah bread in the shape of a turkey. Some Detroit-area bakeries are selling them but he found one he liked online from a kosher bakery and ordered it. It was only $12, but a good bit more for shipping.

“I splurged — I told my wife if we amortize the cost over 80,000 years ’til it happens again, it’s not so bad,” he said.

American Jews also love Thanksgiving and celebrate it every year with the rest of America. Some Jews consider Thanksgiving kosher, not for the thanking of the Creator, but because Thanksgiving is generally seen as a secular, national holiday in which people honour family and community, regardless of ethnic group or religious denomination. It is also popularly associated with pilgrims giving thanks for their new life in America, where they could practise their religion freely.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement, says there is “nothing adverse to anything Jewish or contradictory to Judaism” in Thanksgiving.

“For that celebration to happen – as we are in our religious calendar celebrating our own religious freedom, as it was achieved in ancient times – makes it only that more emphatic,” he says.

People preparing meals for the poor at a Jewish community centre in Washington DC

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Additional reading:

  1. Being thankful
  2. Thanksgiving-Hanukkah overlap spurs thanks, angst
  3. What happens when you cross Thanksgiving with Hanukkah?
  4. Barry’s Best Bread for the Challah-Days