Eight Days of Presents or The Struggles for Israel’s Safety
Hanukkah is arguably our most popular and joyous holiday: because it often falls close to Christmas and because it is celebrated mostly in the home. Perhaps it is because when Hanukkah goes head-to-head with Christmas, our children are elated and parents sigh with relief that Jewish children have eight days of presents compared to only one.
The Maccabees needed three years to liberate Jerusalem, clean the Temple, and re-dedicate the sanctuary. We tell the story in under two minutes, and we rarely add that the Maccabean struggle continued beyond “the oil” another 13 years for religious freedom throughout Israel and the right to eat latkes with either applesauce or sour cream.
The security challenges of today’s state of Israel have evolved almost 70 years (longer including the struggles of the pioneers from the late 19th century until 1948) and those challenges continue. Most American Jews feel that the key to Israel’s survival is merely in the American ballot box. Vote for the right candidates, and the US-Israel partnership will endure.
The formula requires more. During March 4-6, 18,000 Israel supporters will gather in Washington for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. No event focuses more on the US-Israel partnership: speakers, seminars, meetings with our senators and congressional representatives, dialogue with Israeli leaders inside and outside of government, listening and speaking to representatives of American-based Middle Eastern think tanks.
“18,000 people and they need me?” Start with: what if all 18,000 said that? My first AIPAC conference was in 1991 when Washington refused to guarantee loans to Israel to help settle Jews from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia: a gathering of 3,000. I saw the energetic determination of Jews and Christians who loved both Israel and the United States; and I no longer felt the loneliness nor despair of the moment.
I miss that intimate gathering, but I see the qualities that quantity brings to the Washington “table.” When it comes to impact, numbers speak louder than words. At 3,000, AIPAC brought like-minded political leaders who loved Israel; but the gravitational force of 18,000 brings those curious as to what makes Israel and its supporters tick; and in the process comes an education.
As 15,000 (in 2016) has grown to 18,000, congressional representatives from middle America literally come to see that Israel is not a developing country, filled with conflict and fanatics. Israel is the start-up nation, a pluralistic society responsible for many technological and medical advances.
Registration for this conference is $599. AIPAC officially offers a $499 special (hotel is extra, regardless) if one registered by mid-November, but that offer will remain open until the last day of Hanukkah for our synagogue’s delegation. (In recent years AIPAC has made a special outreach to develop synagogue delegations.) Please let me know if you are interested. I’ll drive.
I hope to see you at AIPAC.
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Rabbi Mark David Finkel
973-244-9800, x 14
Rabbi Mark David Finkel is in his seventh year as Rabbi at the Pine Brook Jewish Center after having served as Rabbi of Beth Abraham in Nashua for almost 17 years. A native of Milton, Massachusetts, Rabbi Finkel graduated the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1979 after a year as a visiting student in Israel at the Hebrew University. Rabbi Finkel did his undergraduate work at New York University with a double major in Near Eastern Literature and Languages and economics. Rabbi Finkel also holds an MA in history from NYU and a Masters of Theology from the Harvard Divinity School. Rabbi Finkel received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2004 and from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
In his younger years, Rabbi Finkel spent summers at Camps Young Judea and Yavneh in New Hampshire, and in his teen years he attended and graduated the Prozdor of the Hebrew College of Boston and served as New England Region President of USY. Rabbi Finkel’s previous pulpits were at Congregation Sons of Zion in Holyoke, Massachusetts and at Adath Israel of the Main Line in Merion, Pennsylvania as Associate Rabbi. During the summer of 1996, Rabbi Finkel served as visiting Rabbi in a new congregation in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania. Rabbi Finkel is a member of both the Rabbinical Assembly, the Jewish Youth Directors Association, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. Rabbi Finkel is married to Abby Rosen Finkel and they are the proud parents of Liora, Eliana, and Doron.
RABBI’S OFFICE HOURS: The rabbi is available to meet with both members and nonmembers. Please call the synagogue office to schedule an appointment.