I write this greeting on the day before Thanksgiving – a holiday I enjoy in part because it’s one that most Americans, regardless of religion or politics, celebrate in unity.
But this message is about Chanukah, a Jewish holiday, that speaks to, among its themes, freedom and miracles. This year as Chanukah nears, the world feels especially heavy and frankly, scary. While some of my work involves Holocaust history, I have up until now compartmentalized its relevance for today as mostly a cautionary tale. But the changing winds of politics and ideology of recent years have made me understand that I live in a bubble of denial, with the events of October 7 and its aftermath causing sentiments of antisemitism and dissention to boil worldwide.
Despair is not too strong a word for how I feel about what is happening in Israel and Gaza right now. I have been to Israel twice and love this land and what it means for the Jewish people. I follow the news and try to educate myself through a variety of sources on the current status and long history of this very complicated situation: from international media and podcasts I trust, to Ken Stein’s Center for Israel Education’s excellent weekly webinars, to the Israel Consulate’s daily updates. I want to understand as much as possible and encourage everyone to do the same.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for another Chanukah miracle to occur – one that would bring peace and safety to all who live in this region? Sadly, I have no hope for such a miracle. Instead, I pray for the light of compassion to be kindled in all people as a small start for healing and progress.
Fran Putney is on the editorial staff at the Atlanta Jewish Times and communications manager at the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust.