Hanukkah, tikkun olam: continuing to light the way – opinion

When you are dedicated to building a fairer world, it is natural for you to focus on how much remains to be done to achieve such a lofty goal. Tikkun olam, the Jewish courage to repair the world, is an uphill struggle.

Repair the World’s core organizational values ​​are an acknowledgment that our work will never be done, but that does not deter us from moving forward. The Jewish people are called to leave our communities stronger than we found them, to make a significant contribution, and then to hand over unfinished efforts to future generations.

Whether staff, lay leader, peer, service body member, volunteer, service partner, member of the Jewish Service Alliance, or funder, each of us contributes to changing our world – a goal that is unlikely to be completed. In our life. And each of us is there to help light the way, through gradual steps forward, on the path to justice.

There was a great debate between Hillel and Shammai on how to properly light the hanukkiah after the destruction of the Temple. Shammai proposed lighting all the candles the first night and lighting one less each night thereafter, to mimic the nearly exhausted oil that kept the eternal flame burning.

Hillel argued that the number of candles lit should increase day by day to recreate the miracle of the oil that keeps the eternal flame burning long after it should have gone out. Hillel went on to argue that while we shouldn’t wait for miracles to happen, a kind of optimism and hope arises from noticing them when they happen.

RABBI YEHUDA Teichtal and German Health Minister Jens Spahn at a Hanukkah ceremony last year in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. (credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)

Today, we gather around Hanukkah during the eight nights of Hanukkah and watch the candlelight grow brighter and brighter. We remember the presence of miracles for our ancestors in past seasons, as we consider what is within our domain to repair the communities we are a part of today.

At Repair the World, our light has gotten brighter this year. In July, we shared the stories of American Jews who came forward to serve and meet unprecedented needs in their communities at a critical time in our global history.

Building on that response, we established a vision for the transition from this COVID-19 moment to an enduring and sustainable movement that will ensure that service is the foundation of American-Jewish life and has a significant influence on the identities of the youths. throughout the country and the communities in which they serve.

Rather than sit back and wait for a miracle, we have embraced the uphill struggle and allowed ourselves to find optimism and hope in the results.

For example: Repair the World volunteers and participants surpassed 100,000 acts of service and learning last year for the first time;

Eighty-five percent of Campus Corps members reported feeling somewhat more or much more connected to the Jewish community due to their experience with Service Corps;

Eighty-one percent of BIPOC-led service partners reported that they were able to serve more people in their community thanks to their partnership with Repair;

Eighty percent of participants in Repair’s episodic service events indicated that they felt much or somewhat more motivated to serve afterward;

In each hanukkiah, there is a leading candle that is used to light all the others, known as a shamash. The shamash takes its own light and offers it to each additional candle until the entire janukkiah is lit. In this Hanukkah season, we take stock of the past year, consider how we illuminate our light and how we help others shine as well, with the aim that we shine more together.

Our Jewish service movement continues to grow, fueled by champions for justice and social change, inspired by the wisdom of Jewish tradition, and supported on the shoulders of those who came before us.

We invite you to join us, in your time and way, so that our work in building a more just world continues to grow. This season, we embrace the hope and optimism that being a part of this movement can instill as we are also reminded that it will only be through our continued commitment to Jewish service and learning that we can truly repair the world.

The writer is senior director of Jewish Education to Repair the World.


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