December 7, 2023

JCPA CEO Amy Spitalnick spoke at Central Synagogue’s menorah lighting marking the first night of Chanukah. Her remarks can be found below and are viewable here.

It’s hard not to feel as though the darkness is coming from all directions right now.

The pain and the grief of the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust was compounded by an unprecedented wave of antisemitism unleashed here at home and around the globe.

Hamas’ rape, murder, and kidnapping of Israelis and others has been celebrated by some as “resistance” – while others deny it even happened. Jewish people, synagogues, businesses, and institutions have been attacked by antisemites as “retribution.” Jewish students are targeted and isolated on campus, while many of us feel abandoned by partners and allies.

And make no mistake: this antisemitism didn’t begin on October 7th. We were already facing record levels of hate and extremism, from Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, to a cycle of antisemitic mass shootings, to the mainstreaming of white supremacist conspiracy theories and broader anti-democratic extremism.

All of it seeks to normalize antisemitism; to tell Jews our safety and our pain don’t count; and to drive wedges between the Jewish community and others at a time when solidarity has never been more urgent.

So where do we find light?

I’m finding light in this — in the Jews and our partners showing up in communities around the globe, each of which is an act of hope and faith that the only path forward is through and that a better world is possible.

A world in which people see Jewish pain. Because there are in fact many who have seen us and stood by us over the last two months — even if the loudest voices, the ones so ubiquitous on social media, have not.

A world in which no one suggests that we take off our Stars of David, or our kippahs, or our mezuzahs — because we know standing up against terror and extremism means continuing to show up proudly as Jews.

A world in which antisemitism isn’t inevitable — because it doesn’t have to be and because we will keep fighting to ensure it’s not. We are blessed with leaders, from the White House on down, who are committed to countering the scourge of antisemitism, because Jewish safety is inherent to our democracy and the safety of all communities.

And a world in which, despite our deep grief, we reject those painting this moment in zero sum terms — because we can continue to recognize the humanity of others, including our Muslim and Arab American neighbors and the Palestinian people, even as we grapple with our own pain.

This won’t be easy. The most extreme voices are working to extinguish this light, to pit our communities against one another, to make us feel alone, at every turn. 

But we are resilient.

So I’m holding onto the resilience of the Jewish people — of my own grandparents who survived the unthinkable 80 years ago.

And while I’m holding my daughter – their great-granddaughter – a little tighter these days, I’m also still holding out hope — and continuing to fight — so that she’ll inherit a better world.

Because we have no choice. Because that is our history – that is what we do as Jews.

May tonight, and all eight nights this Chanukah, help us find that resiliency, resolve, and light.

Chag sameach.

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