IN HISTORY NEWS….
- Chanukah II: Obama’s Revenge: After being assailed for just about every imaginable trivial deviation from Bush-era Chanukah celebrations, the Obama White House not only headed off the critics, the organizers managed to go their predecessors a couple better. First, there was the souvenir program, with its front-page welcome: “The President and Mrs. Obama welcome you to the White House in celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.”… – JTA, 12-17-09
- Obama: Hanukkah struggle inspires us: During the ceremony, attended by Jewish community leaders, friends and White House staff, the president promoted ideals of freedom, tolerance and justice. Emphasizing the historical story of Jewish revolt, the president said, “It was more than 2,000 years ago, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, that a small band of believers led by Judah Maccabee rose up and defeated their foreign oppressors – liberating the city and restoring the faith of its people,” according to the White House blog…. – JPost, 12-17-09
- In the Nation Emanuel lights nation’s menorah: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lit the National Menorah yesterday in celebration of Hanukkah. The ceremony marked the 30th anniversary of the first National Menorah lighting in 1979. President Jimmy Carter attended that ceremony…. – Philly Inquirer, 12-14-09
- Maccabean era correspondence discovered: Some 2,200 years after the Maccabees’ revolt, historians and archaeologists are uncovering new information about their era.
This year’s biggest discovery is a correspondence between Seleukes IV, whose brother and heir was Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Chanukah story, and one of Seleukes’ chiefs in Judea found on parts of an ancient stele.
Professor Dov Gera of Ben-Gurion University, who studied the stone’s inscription, said it confirms the account by the Jewish historian Josephus regarding the tightening grip of the Greek-Syrian empire over its subjects’ religious practices.
“[The text reveals] Seleukes appointed one of the members of his court as an official to oversee worship in the area and equate religious services throughout the empire,” Gera said. “Such an appointment might have been considered by the Jews to be offensive.”… – Jewish Telegraph Agency (12-10-09)
- A Senator’s Gift to the Jews, Nonreturnable: The canon of Hanukkah songs written by Mormon senators from Utah just got a little bigger. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a solemn-faced Republican with a soft spot for Jews and a love of Barbra Streisand, has penned a catchy holiday tune, “Eight Days of Hanukkah.” The video was posted Tuesday night on Tablet, an online magazine of Jewish lifestyle and culture, just in time for Hanukkah. NYT, 12-9-09
- DAVID BROOKS: The Hanukkah Story: Tonight Jewish kids will light the menorah, spin their dreidels and get their presents, but Hanukkah is the most adult of holidays. It commemorates an event in which the good guys did horrible things, the bad guys did good things and in which everybody is flummoxed by insoluble conflicts that remain with us today. It’s a holiday that accurately reflects how politics is, how history is, how life is…. – NYT, 12-10-09
OBAMA WHITE HOUSE & QUOTES
- President Obama “By Spirit Alone”: It was more than 2,000 years ago, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, that a small band of believers led by Judah Maccabee rose up and defeated their foreign oppressors – liberating the city and restoring the faith of its people.
And when it came time to rededicate the Temple, the people of Jerusalem witnessed a second miracle: a small amount of oil – enough to light the Temple for a single night – ended up burning for eight. It was a triumph of the few over the many; of right over might; of the light of freedom over the darkness of despair. And ever since that night, in every corner of the world, Jews have lit the Hanukkah candles as symbols of resilience in times of peace, and in times of persecution – in concentration camps and ghettos; war zones and unfamiliar lands. Their light inspires us to hope beyond hope; to believe that miracles are possible even in the darkest of hours.
It is this message of Hanukkah that speaks to us no matter what faith we practice or what beliefs we cherish. Today, the same yearning for justice that drove the Maccabees so long ago inspires the protestors who march for peace and equality even when they know they will be beaten and arrested for it. It gives hope to the mother fighting to give her child a bright future even in the face of crushing poverty. And it invites all of us to rededicate ourselves to improving the lives of those around us, spreading the light of freedom and tolerance wherever oppression and prejudice exist.
This is the lesson we remember tonight – that true acts of strength are possible, in the words of the prophet Zechariah, not by might and not by power, but by spirit alone. WH, 12-16-09
- Statement by President Obama on Hanukkah: Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Hanukkah around the world. The Hanukkah story of the Maccabees and the miracles they witnessed reminds us that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds.
Hanukkah is not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths to celebrate the common aspirations we share. As families, friends and neighbors gather together to kindle the lights, may Hanukkah’s lessons inspire us all to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, to find light in times of darkness, and to work together for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow…. – WH, 12-11-09
- Obama Issues Hanukkah Message in Hebrew: The White House is facing complaints in Israel that its Hanukkah party does not live up to the standards set by President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. But with the Jewish festival of lights set to begin at sundown on Friday, President Obama has outdone Mr. Bush in at least one respect – he issued a Hanukkah message in Hebrew.
The English version of the greeting sends “warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Hanukkah around the world,” from Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle. It recalls the ancient story of the Maccabees, the Jewish rebels who triumphed in battle and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem – a reminder, the message says, that “that faith and perseverance are powerful forces that can sustain us in difficult times and help us overcome even the greatest odds.” Hebrew Message NYT, 12-11-09
- Israeli President Shimon Peres broadcasts YouTube Chanukah message: “Dear Friends: Yesterday I blessed my Arab citizens because they had their holiday which is called Eid-el Adha, a holiday of good will. Tomorrow, I am going to bless my Christian citizens; they are going to have Christmas. But now, it’s time of Chanukah, our own holiday; full of light, full of optimism, full of hope. Not that everything is so easy and promising, but it’s a clear declaration that finally light will win the day.
We are going through a difficult period of time. There are many dangers, the Iranians; there are many difficulties, like the negotiations of peace, but I am in charge of optimism. I have the right to be one. Most of the things we have hoped for came true. We continue to hope they will come true as well. We would like to be a contributing people, we can be a contributing people; not only in science and technology, but also in peace and promise. The greatest of them is that all children, ours, the Arabs’, the Christians’ will arrive to a day when their mothers do not have to worry about their safety, which means peace. Light and peace are the two things on which Jewish heritage are based. Thank you. Happy Hanukkah, Chag Chanukah Sameah.” – You Tube
- A Very Emanuel Chanukah: Rahm Emanuel had a serious message about mutual responsibility to make, in a pithy, punchy speech before he helped light the “national menorah” this evening on the Ellipse in front of the White House. Still, the White House chief of staff being Rahm couldn’t resists a couple of one-liners. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, rushed in a thanks to the performers before calling Emanuel to the stage.
“The U.S. Air Force Band, the Three Cantors and Dreidl Man,” Emanuel said after taking the microphone, “sounds a little like the title of a Fellini movie.” Emanuel went on to make the lessons of Chanukah a paradigm for the collective responsibility for those not able to defend or care for themselves — Tikkun Olam. “Standing up for what is right, even when it is hard, is not a job for some other people, some other time,” he said. “It is a job for all of us.” And still, expounding on the holiday miracle, he couldn’t resist a dig at his former habitat, Congress. “The oil lasted longer than anyone expected, kind of like the health care debate,” he said… – JTA, 12-13-09
- CHANUKAH Heroes or rabble-rousers? The real story of the Maccabees: In 165 BCE, a group of warriors led by Judah Maccabee and his band of brothers ushered in a new era in Jewish history when they routed the soldiers of the Greek-Syrian empire and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. That victory, and the miracle of the menorah that followed, is celebrated every year by Jews around the world at Chanukah. But if the same thing had happened today, would contemporary Jews hail the Maccabees as heroes?
The place in Jewish history of the Maccabees — a nickname for the first members of the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled an autonomous Jewish kingdom — is much more complex than their popular image might suggest. “Historically it was much more complicated, as there were Jews on both sides,” Jeffrey Rubenstein, professor of Talmud and rabbinics at New York University, said of the Maccabee uprising. “Nowadays, historians look at the conflict more in terms of a civil war than a revolt.”… – JTA, 12-10-09
- Improving on the Latke: Joan Nathan, a well respected cookbook author and expert in Jewish foods, said she’s not surprised at the widespread resistance to making a traditional treat more healthful. When once asked to come up with baked latkes that tasted as good as fried, she tried. “But I ended up throwing all the recipes in the garbage,” she said.
Another reason for the fried latke’s persistence: oil isn’t just a cooking ingredient, it’s central to the eight- day celebration of Hanukkah. After winning back their land in battle, the Jews needed to light a menorah as part of a rededication of their Temple. Although they only had enough oil for one day, the oil, miraculously, lasted for eight… – NYT, 12-10-09
- At Hanukkah, Chefs Make Kitchen Conversions: On holidays like Hanukkah, which begins this year on the night of Dec. 11, gentile chefs with Jewish spouses bring epicurean interpretations to simple dishes, but also enjoy culinary traditions they’ve taken to heart.
Even since their divorce, the Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck, a Roman Catholic, continues to hold a charity Seder at his restaurant Spago in Los Angeles with his business partner and ex-wife, Barbara Lazaroff, who is Jewish. “The food is so similar,” Mr. Puck said. “My grandmother made potato pancakes, but they were rösti with cooked potatoes and then fried with onions. We had semolina dumplings like matzo balls.”… = NYT, 12-9-09
- Tevi Troy “Washington Fuss Over White House Hanukkah Party”: In an opinion article published by JTA, the Jewish news agency, Tevi Troy, a former Bush administration liaison to Jewish groups, warned that the Obama White House had given Jewish Americans “a number of reasons to fear that it takes its votes for granted.” Mr. Troy cited as examples the administration’s call for a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the decision to honor Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, who has been accused by some Democratic lawmakers of anti-Israel bias. Mr. Troy said the reduced guest list created “a nagging sense that there may be a studied callousness at work here.” – NYT, 12-11-09
- Aaron Zelinsky: Judah the Maccabee’s Five Lessons for Barack Obama: Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. Modern celebrants (including Senator Hatch) focus on the miracle of the Menorah, which tradition tells us stayed lit for eight days on a single day’s oil. However, Chanukah is also the political story of a few determined Maccabees leading an uprising against the much stronger Seleucid Empire.
Though the events Chanukah commemorates took place over 2,000 years ago, the historical story of the Maccabees provides useful lessons for our modern era. From the Seleucids, we see how not to fight a guerilla insurgency. From the Maccabees, we learn how to rally a people and a nation.
Here are Chanukah’s five geopolitical lessons…. Huffington Post (12-11-09)
- Gil Troy: This Hannukkah, Let’s Teach Our Children How to Give: For the last few years I have lamented that Jews were preparing to celebrate Hanukkah, our festival of lights, during a particularly dark period. I am happy to say that this year was actually pretty good. Yes, the Iranian nuclear threat – to the United States not just to Israel – still looms. Yes, the crash, recession, and Madoff scheme crushed many individuals – and charitable foundations that do holy work. Yes, the high unemployment rate in the United States is a reminder of the misery many individuals are experiencing even during this holiday season. Yes, Islamic extremists declare war on the West, yet many Westerners, deny and dither, afraid to respond too assertively. And yes, Palestinian rejectionists get a free pass in the world court of public opinion while Israel is condemned for engaging in self-defense…. – 12-11-09
- Tevi Troy: Op-Ed: Obama must beware of the Chanukah snub: Officials in the Obama administration have decided that they will be cutting the guest list in half for this year’s Chanukah party at the White House. The Jerusalem Post, which first reported this development, suggested that this will be politically harder for Obama the Democrat than it would have been for Bush the Republican. As one of President Bush’s advisers for many of his Chanukah parties, I can assure you that it would not have been easy in the previous White House, either… – JTA, 11-23-09