Hanukah and Islam: The fight for Freedom of Religion.

One of the key messages of the upcoming holiday of Hanukah is the importance of religious freedom.  The Maccabbees were inspired to take up arms against the Syrian Greek empire largely because Jewish religious practices were banned and the empire demanded that its subjects adopt Greek religion instead.  Throughout the centuries, Jews have never insisted that others follow our religious path; instead, we have advocated for everyone’s right to follow his or her own tradition without interference, including religious law. 

In the case of the Islamophobia that is still running rampant in our country, and particularly the attack on Muslim legal traditions, it is clearer than ever that anti-Muslim sentiment and anti-Jewish sentiment often run hand in hand.  The struggle to reject anti-Muslim bias is our Jewish struggle as well, which is why organizations like the Anti-Defamation League have come out against attempts to outlaw shaariah as well as opposing efforts to prevent the construction of mosques and to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion.

Hanukah’s message of religious freedom is universal; it cannot apply only to ourselves.  When we light the candles of Hanukah, we must also embrace the struggle to bring the light of religious freedom to all people in our state, in our country, and throughout the world.

— Message from the Rabbi of the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia. 

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