This Hanukkah, two friends of mine, Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR in Los Angeles and Amichai Lau-Lavie of Lab/Shul in New York - two of the most innovative and extraordinary Jewish spiritual leaders out there - joined forces to create what they describe as a "virtual ritual upgrade toolkit getting us to shine our light with more purpose and intention." Each night, one of them wrote something to help us rethink and reboot our Hanukkah celebrations (you can see the whole project here).
I particularly liked this excerpt from Rabbi Brous' piece on the Fourth Night:
It's time to get back to the heart of the matter. Time to reawaken ourselves to the idea that a community, a people, can join forces to take its painful past and turn it into a mandate to work to alleviate the pain of others. To the idea that we are called to stand on the margins of society and cry out against injustice, fight for the most vulnerable. To the centrality of great dreams - the foundation of our world, to the belief that despair is antithetical to the Jewish experience and that our story, though it starts in narrowness, leads to expansive possibility. To the extraordinary capacity of the human heart to hold immense beauty and great pain at once.
She's describing her vision for the Jewish people, but what she writes also applies to us as an NIF community. So often, in our work, we hold the beauty and the pain at the same time. But that's the essence of working to strengthen and defend democracy during difficult times. We are dedicated to supporting those who stand at the margins of Israeli society, who cry out against injustice, and who fight for the most vulnerable. They are our inspiration. And the Heschelian notion that "despair is antithetical to the Jewish experience" is the essence of the NIF position; it's the central code of our organizational DNA.
In this spirit, I offer each of you this small Hanukkah gift. We've put together a short animated video that I think captures the spirit of NIF.
Enjoy it. Share it with your friends. Send it to anyone you think might be compelled to join us in saying yes to a better Israel.