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Hanukkah (IDF Kit)

Over the past couple of months, LSS has hosted speakers from Beit Morasha. As a quick reminder, Beit Morasha of Jerusalem (BMJ) was founded to cultivate leaders with the necessary skills and vision to respond to troubling trends that threaten the continuity and resilience of the Jewish people. A pioneer in integrating advanced Jewish studies and Western culture, Beit Morasha's revolutionary approach lies in creating a committed, intellectual leadership empowered to inform, inspire and enhance Jewish and Zionist identity, both in Israel and throughout the world. To learn more about the organization, please visit them on the web by clicking here.

BMJ produces is holiday study kits in collaboration with the IDF Education Corps which cultivate “commander educators” who are equipped to strengthen the Jewish and Zionistic identity of the soldiers under their charge, increase awareness of their Jewish values and heighten their motivation for meaningful military service.

The IDF Hanukkah Study Kit is written for soldiers with all different levels of familiarity with the holiday. Here is an excerpt:

One of the central messages of the Festival of Chanukah is the confrontation with the Greeks and the triumph over them. A primary ingredient in the confrontation was opposition to Hellenization. One may say that this was a conflict between two cultures, while the people of Israel and the Maccabees aspired to observe the principles of their faith and the uniqueness of their customs.

The encounter with Greek-Hellenistic culture was neither the first nor would it be the last with a foreign culture. It is apparent that alongside the battle there was a certain influence and assimilation of different aspects of Greek-Hellenistic tradition that have become an inseparable part of Jewish and Israeli culture.

Today, the State of Israel and the Jewish People as a whole also interface with many cultures, and are especially influenced by American culture. We also find ourselves in contact with various cultures from throughout the world as a result of the Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) that we encourage. The Festival of Chanukah is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves how we feel about these cultural contacts.

“In the course of our long history, the Jewish People has been intertwined with a number of major cultures, both influencing them and absorbing from them. All these influences neither devalued nor diminished the uniqueness of the People of Israel’s culture in all its generations. It is the standard for contemporary Israeli/Jewish culture that it renews itself by absorbing the best of the scientific, technological, social, political, artistic, and intellectual creations of modern culture. But it doesn’t surrender its uniqueness. In a national framework it creates a complete synthesis between content derived from outside and traditional Jewish content. Nevertheless, there are extremely conspicuous signs of assimilation and the blurring of our unique national identity, a tendency to self-denigrate and to mimic everything from outside.” Prof. Eliezer Schweid, Libra, December, 1987

In traditional pedagogical fashion (think the Seder), the study kit also raises questions that are meant to elicit discussion, whether among the IDF commanders and their soldiers or for us as we enjoy the sufganiot. Here is a sample:

  • How do we create an integration of diverse cultures that won’t cancel each other out?
  • Is it important to emphasize Israeli culture? How?
  • What are the possibilities and the dangers in being open to influences of foreign cultures?

Hag Sameach!

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780