Celebrating Hanukkah, American Style

Dec. 23 2019

When Jews came to America, they put their own unique stamp on the celebration of the Festival of Lights. David Geffen notes some examples:

We are informed by a daily San Francisco newspaper that, on December 26, 1897, a Hanukkah celebration was held that day at the Bush Street Temple. The children performed intricate marches carrying the American flag. Following that there were recitations about Hanukkah, Judah Maccabee, and the miracle of the oil burning for eight days. “Many candelabra were lit as the prayers were recited.”

Rabbi Isidore Myers spoke to those assembled, young and old. “To be regarded with favor by God, you must show how much you can do to spread the truth. Show your pride,” he continued, “to your noble ancestors by your own heroism, remembering that the true hero is the one who does God’s will. Let us follow the example of the noted Judah Maccabee.”

The Hanukkah celebration ended that day with everyone, old and young, singing [a patriotic song]. It is fascinating how in various periods when the U.S. was at war, Jews emphasized their patriotism. . . . In this case, embattled America was fighting in the Spanish-American War, where Jews were serving alongside their Gentile compatriots.

And while the giving of gifts on Hanukkah was a largely American innovation, Geffen notes that 100 years ago, Jews, proportionally, gave more gifts on the holiday than did Christians on Christmas.

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Read more at Atlanta Jewish Times

More about: American Jewish History, American Judaism, Hanukkah

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine