I am 72 years old, so I bring a long view to my love of Chanukah that started in childhood. Chanukah, to me, is historically and spiritually based on the concepts of freedom, equality, unity, community, and strength.
Sixty-five years ago, in Hebrew School, I was thrilled to learn about the Maccabi freedom fighters who defeated their Greek occupiers. Jews uniting to win back their liberty made me feel special, that I could accomplish anything with enough courage and hard work. Freedom and unity produced feelings of community and strength among American Jews.
My Union, N.J., elementary class had 20 Christian and six Jewish children, and at Christmas time, Chanukah fostered a sense of equality among us six Jews. We delighted in occasional envy shared by Christian peers that our holiday had eight days and we probably received more gifts.
As an adult, husband, and father, I loved the Chanukah parties that my late wife, Sue, and I hosted at our Dunwoody home. The adults assisted “Latke Arnie’s” frying up six or seven dozen potato pancakes while our kids spun the dreidels on the dining room floor or opened up their gifts. Our people coming together to celebrate their holiday and teach children our glorious traditions – freedom, unity, community – is for me the most special quality of a holiday that Hebrew scholar Leon Spotts theorized was originally a war-delayed Sukkot.
I conclude that for Chanukah 2018, we Americans should all enjoy a renewed sense of freedom and democracy and take pleasure in Israel’s security.
Dr. Arnold Heller is vice chair of the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission and chair of the Atlanta Ra’anana Sister City Committee.