For Jewish families, the "dilemma" of December generally revolves around the challenge of maintaining a Jewish identity amid a deluge of Yuletide cheer. The solution for many has been to inflate the festival of Chanukah into a blue-tinseled version of Christmas.
But aside from the fact that Chanukah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, there is nothing wrong with the fact that many Jews embrace it more readily than other, more important holidays. We do well to remember that the true message of Chanukah is not a Jewish version of an ecumenical message of "good will" to all men, but a refusal to bow down to the idols of the popular culture of the day. Viewed in that light, the genuine challenge of Chanukah may be as considerable for the entire Jewish community as it is for individual families.
The Maccabees' problem was how to preserve the Torah and Jewish observance in the face of both persecution and the suffocating influence of the pervasive Hellenic culture of the day. Ours centers on how to do the same thing in an atmosphere of freedom and tolerance in which assimilation is rampant.
There are no easy answers to that quandary, but there's no question that it requires a greater commitment on the part of the community to those institutions that have been proven to build Jewish identity: Jewish day schools. Until the moment comes when such schools are made available to all Jewish families, regardless of income, it must be conceded that we are failing to ensure that our community will thrive in the future.
Keeping the flame of Jewish identity burning may not require the sort of sacrifices made by the five sons of Mattathias in 165 BCE. But every Jewish individual and community has an opportunity to do the same in our own day by striking a blow for the future.
With that in mind, the publishers and the staff of the Jewish Exponent wish our readers and their families a Happy Chanukah!