Tonight we mark the 7th night of Hanukkah and like the other holidays of this season, it reminds us of our ability to bring light into the world. The candles of the hanukkiah are not a denial of the long night ahead of us, they are a response to it – a refusal to meet darkness in kind, but with the light of courage, compassion and hope. Two months have passed since the horrific attacks on October 7th, and I keep returning to the image of the Hanukkah candles and how their small, insistent light can illuminate the space around them.

Our goal at Mishkan, for our community and our staff, is to create spaces for learning and dialogue – to be a light in the darkness, transcending the toxic binary that too often constrains how we speak about this conflict. And while our community of diverse voices means that we don’t always agree on how to chart the path forward, we can commit to be in conversation with one another – with the understanding that a peaceful future must be a shared one.

We recognize the right of Jews to be a free people in Israel, am hofshi b’arzteinu, and understand that the realization of this dream must come hand-in-hand with the dignity and self-determination of Palestinians and the other people who call that place home. Here in Chicago, Mishkan’s focus is on building community and coming together for support, learning, and prayer, often learning from one another across lines of ideological difference. We leave political strategy to the expert minds of our time. See our resource page Courageous Conversations on Israel and Palestine (under the Learning; On Israel tab on our website) for a full statement on how we approach this topic, in addition to our library of sermons, blog posts, and calls to action. 

In the months ahead, keep an eye out for opportunities to learn from experts in the field and hear from Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers working on-the-ground for a sustainable resolution to the ongoing crisis. We also invite you to join us in praying for the release of hostages in our weekday virtual morning minyan or at our Shabbat services.

I am proud to be part of a community of people committed to being a light in the darkness – and where conversations about our shared future are guided by grace, curiosity, generosity of spirit, and respect.

Chag Urim Sameach, Happy Hanukkah,
Rabbi Steven