Let your Hanukkiah Shine! 4 Ways to Support the Jewish Community

Jewish people traditionally put their nine-branched hanukkiah candlesticks in the window for all to see, which at times like these can be a bit of a risky move. Antisemitism seems to be at an all-time high, and reminiscent of the 1930s, but it's especially now that Gentiles can make such a difference by choosing to stand with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

On the platform formerly known as Twitter, a man named Ian wrote asking if it would be inappropriate to light a hanukkiah candlestick for the upcoming holiday:

A question for my Jewish friends on here, would it be offensive to you if I get a Menorah to add to our usual Christmas decorations this year as a show of support?

The response was overwhelming. There were hundreds of replies just like these:

“Ian, what a lovely gesture. Just enjoy lighting it and post a picture. Your support is so appreciated.”

“It’s the exact opposite of offensive! I find it heartwarming and incredibly comforting in these difficult time for our people! We need as much light as possible these days to overcome the darkness we are all facing. Thank you for your kind and very thoughtful gesture!”

“Personally as a Jew I would be honoured. I wouldn’t care if you did it in the wrong order or just lit 1 candle. It’s the symbolism that’s important. I’m very touched.”

“Love it, your gesture brings a lot of comfort to know there are people out there who get it and care.”

This is one act of publicly displaying support for the Jewish people that can really make a difference.

Shine for all to see

It takes a degree of courage at times like this to be visibly Jewish, or visibly associated with Israel and the Jewish people. The show of support is extremely heartwarming. In the same way, we have seen some amazing marches and vigils happening across the world in support of Israel at this time.

The government's website issued a travel warning, advising Israelis to consider whether their overseas travel was really necessary. In the event of necessary travel, here's their advice:

“For Israeli citizens traveling abroad, we recommend choosing their destinations wisely, while exercising recommended precautionary measures wherever they are, and examining their conduct in light of the recommendations detailed in the NSC [National Security Council] website and especially: Postponing travel to countries for which travel warnings have been issued… Checking whether there have been anti-Israel protests and violence at the destination, even in countries for which no travel warnings have been issued.” Israelis are warned to remain alert and aware of their surroundings. The website also recommends finding out in advance the phone numbers for emergency services and  “Avoiding openly displaying your Israeli and Jewish identities and any relevant symbols and staying away from Israeli and Jewish gatherings”.

A sad indictment on the state of affairs if ever there was one. The advice to avoid “openly displaying” Jewish identity is particularly chilling. Many have flatly refused to follow the advice and are standing up for their Jewish and Israeli identities more than ever before. “That's it! I'm getting the biggest hanukkiah I can get!” Announced one man. Noa Tishby, Former Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and Delegitimization of Israel, also encourages those who support Israel not to hide away either. She says,

“We don’t need to know if you would hide us in your attics. We don’t need people to hide us. We need you to come out of hiding and stand with us!”

Children of God

The realistic danger of being attacked when visibly Jewish is desperately sad, but those who follow the same God, the God of Israel, need to understand the same treatment is coming to all believers. Whether you're Jewish or Gentile, if you choose to follow Jesus you have been brought into the family. You're one of the tribe, a grafted in son or daughter of Zion. As a child of God you will inevitably carry the characteristics of your Father, and represent your family line. We've all become heirs in Messiah Jesus, and (like it or not), our very nature as born again children of God will inevitably get us in trouble with a world that hates Him. This is the root of antisemitism, and we'll increasingly see it directed as all God's family as evil increases. But this is just an opportunity to shine brighter in the darkness.

The question is, will you try to quench your light? To hide it, as it becomes dangerous to be seen and known as His? Or will you let your light shine?

Israelis and Jewish people around the world are having to make decisions about whether to hide away or be proud of who they are at great cost. Many prefer to take a stand and suffer the consequences that may follow. There are times when it's wise to go underground as believers in many Muslim states will tell you, but in the west? In Christian countries? Surely we're not ready to capitulate just yet?

Letting your light shine brings praise and glory to our Father in heaven as we display His likeness. It takes courage, and a willingness to suffer, but isn't that was He promised? We are different. We are in this world, but not of it. We need to get used to different.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

How to shine your light

What does it look like to shine your light in this generation? To bravely stand up and be counted as belonging to the God of Israel in this dark world? Here are some of the ways that people have taken a stand.

1. Join Ian! Light a hanukkiah in solidarity

Some, like that guy Ian, have chosen to publicly identify with the Jewish community by placing a hanukkiah in the window during the eight days of the holiday. If you would like to do the same but don't have a nine branch candlestick, eight little candles with a ninth slightly raised candle in the window will work just as well. You will warm the heart of anyone Jewish in your neighborhood, and signal solidarity with the Jewish community to everyone else.

2. Join a march or gathering to express your support

There have been some amazing demonstrations of support in major cities around the world. Some are specifically pro-Israel, others are more generally against antisemitism. Hundreds of thousands gathered in London, for example, carrying the flag of Israel and placards to remind people about the hostages still waiting for freedom. Moving speeches were given, prayers were prayed and songs were sung. It took courage for Jewish people to attend these rallies, and means so much when they are supported by others who want to show love for God's chosen people. It shows that the Jewish people, though very few in number, are not alone. If you don't know of any in your area, why not organize one?

3. Take a literal stand beside a Jewish (or Israeli) institution

In South Korea some Christians gathered to pray silently in a line outside the Israeli embassy, taking cards with supportive words to hold up. Christians came from several different churches and organizations, but those representing ONE FOR ISRAEL came out in particular force! The cards made these seven declarations (in Korean, Hebrew, Arabic and English):

“As Bible believing Christians, we pray in silence today for the security of Israel, the return of the hostages, and the peace of Jerusalem, based on the following facts…”

1. The Land of Israel:
God of Israel, who is the Lord of all the earth, has promised to give the land of Canaan to Israel forever (Ezekiel 37:25)

2. Jerusalem:
The legitimate claims of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the historic capital of the Davidic kingdom and the site of God’s temple, are indisputable (Psalm 137)

3. The People of Israel:
God has promised that as long as the sun and moon exist, Israel will not cease to exist before Him (Jeremiah 31:36)

4. The State of Israel:
We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and the efforts of the IDF to minimize civilian casualties during military operations.

5. Contributions of the Jews:
We highly appreciate the Jewish peoples religious and cultural heritage, the Old Testament, which has had a profound impact on human life and society.

6. The Spiritual Debt of Christians:
Salvation comes from the Jews, and as those who are spiritually indebted, we have an obligation to assist Israel. (Romans 15:27)

7. Eternal Promise:
The promise of God remains valid: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will cures” emphasizing the significance of blessing Israel. (Genesis 12:3)

You could also do the same thing with some friends, even write prayer suggestions on the back of the card so people know how they can pray while you stand and proclaim these truths. If the Israeli embassy is too far away, perhaps you could take your stand in support of Israel outside a synagogue or Jewish center instead.

In Korea, this expression of support and kindness was so greatly appreciated that the embassy asked them to come back for a second week!

4. Write a letter of support

Another way to let your light shine in these dark times to Jewish friends who need support is to write letters. Whether it's writing to your representative or local authority, or to those in the synagogues in your area, your words make a difference. A friend in the UK (Dave Herron) wrote this simple letter to all the synagogues in the vicinity:

Dear Jewish friends

My wife and I, along with a number of friends who meet regularly to pray in the Christian tradition, have wanted for some time to find a simple way to express our sympathy with, and support for … our Jewish neighbours and also for the State of Israel at this painful time.

We have watched the events of the last few weeks with shock, sorrow and some degree of anger.

Please be assured that there are many decent and supportive people in the community that surrounds you. It may seem that much of the media, and even a large percentage of the population, is indifferent or even hostile to our Jewish neighbours and to the tragic cause of Israel… but you have many, many friends. Some of us are very active not only in our prayers but also in conversation and advocacy to make sure that righteousness and justice and truth are maintained in the public discourse.

My wife and I will be making a coach trip down to London on Sunday 19th to join several thousand folks under the loose heading of Christians Against anti-Semitism to make a public pronouncement of our commitment. I hope that all of the above will provide at least a crumb of comfort and re assurance and possibly encouragement to your community.

The response was amazing. He was invited to come and visit, to speak, and one congregation even gave a sizable sum to the charity of their choice. It gave much needed comfort to an embattled community who felt hated by the world around them.

Don't hide your hanukkiah under a bushel. LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE.

Photo by Amy Feingold on Unsplash

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