The meaning(s) of Hanukkah

Hanukkah has always been a chameleon-like holiday.

It’s permanently fused to Christmas for calendar (and gift giving) reasons.

But it’s also been linked with Thanksgiving for historical reasons (celebrating the meaning of religious freedom and similar themes).

Different Jews like Hanukkah for different reasons. The holiday starts Tuesday evening.

The Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt captures the squishy nature of Hanukkah well in a “column,”: “What does Chanukah mean to you?” (Yes, it’s also true that the holiday can be spelled in several different ways. I prefer the H version).

Rosenblatt writes:

Part of the enduring genius and vibrancy of Judaism is the ongoing relevance of its stories and the ability to choose different meanings and messages from its narrative and teachings. (Surely environmentalists can look to the Maccabee story as the preservation of nature’s resources, and Mideast experts can focus on the importance of oil in the region.)

The question for us is which theme will we focus on, and what meaning will we give it?

Perhaps our greatest challenge is to accept and even embrace each of the disparate elements of the Chanukah story and seek a way to make sense of them together.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.