May 26, 2024 |


Posted on December 18, 2017

We reviewed the mishna, “Do not look at the jug, rather look at what’s inside” (Pirkei Avot 4:20) and learned about the mishna, “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2: 4).  We connected the later mishna to an incident 24 years ago in Billings, Montana in which the a brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a six year old Jewish child because there was a menorah in that window.  The citizens of Billings responded by placing images of menorahs their windows uniting in a collective declaration of ‘not in our town!’ We watched a portion of a PBS documentary, “Not in Our Town” about the incident in Billings,   Gesher students raised many similar recent incidents in Metro-west including swastikas, the egging of the home of a gay couple and a community demonstration that included many clergy members who also expressed a common commitment to ‘not in our town.’
Our learning session ended with a discussion of Antiochus’s decrees. The story of Hanukkah is about the Hassidim fighting the Syrian Greeks for the right to remain Jewish.  It is also about the Hassidim convincing the Hellenists (assimilated Jews) that totally assimilating is not a good thing.  After a discussion of the decrees, students thought about which decrees supported the establishment of a common culture among all citizens of a society and also which decrees would lead to the destruction of the Jewish community.
·       No Jewish sacrifices may be offered in the Temple of G-d. Instead mandatory sacrifices of pigs and impure animals were dedicated to Zeus on the Temple’s altar.
·       Pagan temples were to be built throughout Judea.
·       No circumcisions were allowed on pain of death to child, parent and mohel (the one who does the ritual circumcision.)
·       The Torah was to be forgotten and its legal system replaced with Greek law.
·       Shabbat and holidays were to be desecrated.
·       The celebration of the Emperor’s birthday was enforced including the eating of sacrifices made in his honor.
·       Participation in Dionysian processions crowned with ivy wreaths was required.
·       It was prohibited to identify oneself as a Jew (including perhaps, the prohibition of the use of Jewish names.)

At the end of the morning, we enjoyed a wonderful, delicious and spirit-filled all-school Hanukkah celebration with latkes and cider (with gratitude to the Men’s Club), dreidel games and Hanukkah songs (with gratitude to Cantor Ken).