As the festival of Chanukah approaches, we think of Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who were able to drive the Greek-Syrians out of Jerusalem and cleanse the Second Temple, leading to its rededication. It is remembered as the Miracle of Lights whereby the small amount of temple oil, only enough to burn for a single day, continued burning for eight days.

This festival is traditionally thought of as the miracle of light over darkness that saw the maintenance of an independent Jewish Kingdom at around 200 BCE, allowing the Jews to continue practicing their religion.

Today, the land of Israel is seen as the home of the Jewish people, regardless of where they reside in the world.

For those of us who live in the Diaspora and practice Progressive Judaism, the importance of a free and democratic Eretz Israel is part and parcel of our beliefs and values; a land where we seek freedom of religious practice, like the Maccabees, religious equality for all streams of Judaism, and a pluralistic society where men, women and Jews of colour are treated as one.

We are, at this time, blessed by the world bodies of Judaism seeking to share the light: the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the World Zionist Organisation and our own Union for Progressive Judaism, including our many Progressive synagogues, schools and organisations.

As we celebrate the first night of Chanukah on Thursday 10 December, we will, I believe, be hoping for the spreading of light over darkness to deal with the scourge of COVID-19 in Israel and the political instability that is currently rife in the Jewish homeland. We will also be hoping that, whatever the political outcome, our Progressive movement will continue to grow and be strong in Israel so that we in the Diaspora will feel welcome and at home in the land of our ancestors.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President