This blog post is adapted from a Hanukkah resource created in partnership with the American Jewish Committee.
As Jews across the world celebrate Hanukkah this week, we commemorate the Maccabees’ victory over the tyrannical King Antiochus and the Seleucid Empire. Prior to his defeat, Antiochus had desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and forbade Jewish religious observance. Thus, the miracle of a meager amount of oil lighting the menorah in the Temple for a full eight days signifies to us the righteousness and wonder of overcoming a regime of persecution and violence.
The inspirational Hanukkah story offers ample opportunities to reflect on and take action against the many injustices we see in our modern world, including the global refugee crisis. Today, there are an estimated 14.4 million refugees under the mandate of the UN Refugee Agency. From the Middle East to Africa, Latin America and across the globe, refugees have fled their homes seeking an opportunity for the hope that lies at the core of our celebration of Hanukkah – to live freely according to one’s own beliefs and conscience.
In Central America, for example, gang warfare and weak government institutions have led to a situation in which kidnapping, torture and murder are all too common. Millions of people, including tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, have embarked on a treacherous northward journey in order to reach a place where they will be free of constant fear.
The refugee crisis in Syria also grows more dire with each passing day. And although millions of displaced Syrians are currently seeking refuge from civil war and from the rising threat of ISIS, many in this country and around the world have turned their backs on Syrian refugees out of fear about global terrorism and international security.
In the midst of the Hanukkah celebration, we should remember the hardships facing today’s refugees, who unlike the Maccabees from our own tradition do not have the military might to resist the systemic violence and marginalization inflicted against them both at home and during their travels to safety. As we reflect on the global refugee crisis this week, we can also take action by telling our elected officials that we support a robust refugee resettlement program that places humanitarian assistance and mercy over xenophobia and fear.
For a full list of the Reform Movement’s varied resources to address the global refugee crisis during Hanukkah and beyond, please visit the RAC’s Refugee Crisis Response page.