Can a Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Light the Menorah Together?

-Post by Rabbi Jill Maderer, Congregation Rodeph Shalom

Join us for the Center City Kehillah Hanukkah Candlelighting in Rittenhouse Square, Tues., Dec 8, 5:15pm!      

“Since when is Hanukkah so important?” I once heard someone ask a rabbi. “Sukkot is important, Pesach is important, Shabbat is important, but Hanukkah is such a minor holiday!  Why do we give in to the Christmas culture that identifies December as the time for an important holiday?!”

“Well,” the rabbi responded, “it’s true that Hanukkah is not particularly important compared to other Jewish festivals.  It’s a minor holiday that gets a whole lot of attention.  But, if Jews are creating happy Jewish memories and experiences around a Jewish holiday, who are we to take that away?” Inline image 1

It’s true.  The expansion of Hanukkah may be simply a result of the December holiday culture that surrounds us in the U.S., but still, Hanukkah is a source of joy, light and celebration to a great many Jews.  Hanukkah is also somewhat low threshold – perhaps it’s more accessible to people who aren’t comfortable with Jewish observance.  Perhaps, it’s even a way in.  And when we in the Jewish community discover a way in, it is our responsibility to enable people to take steps that might bring them closer to Jewish life.

This Hanukkah, for the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Jewish community and all who are interested in it will together participate in a Hanukkah candlelighting in Rittenhouse Square.  The Center City Kehillah, comprised of congregations including Rodeph Shalom and Jewish organizations and Jewish start-ups in town, will hold the lighting on Tues., Dec. 8 at 5:15pm.  As co-chair of the Center City Kehillah, along with my new co-chair Ross Berkowitz, director of Tribe 12 (the address for Jewish young adults in Philadelphia), I am proud that Rodeph Shalom is a part of such a bold outreach effort.  And I am proud that we are part of such a clearly pluralistic Jewish effort.

Last year, I co-led the candlelighting with a Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, an Orthodox rabbi.  Many people who attended commented to me on the power of that symbolism.  It is an image you don’t usually have the chance to see!  It’s that pluralism that reminds us that we are a part of a Jewish world much greater than ourselves.

Who participates in the Kehillah and who will you see at the candlelighting?  Reform Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews.  Jews who belong to congregations, Jews who pray in independent minyanim, Jews who are graduate students, Jews who have no connection to Jewish organizations.  Jews who are on JDate.  Old Jews, young adult Jews, Jews pushing strollers.  Non-Jews who are married to Jews, who are dating Jews, or who might like to become Jews.

Our Hanukkah candlelighting is a meaningful way to interact with the Jewish community of Center City and to welcome others to connect you Jewish community. I hope to see you there.