THIS CHANUKAH: FREEDOM IS NOT A GIFT. WE HAVE TO FIGHT EVERY DAY
By RABBI MARVIN HIER
Today, as we celebrate the first day of Chanukah, I wanted to wish you and your families a happy and healthy holiday.
At the end of this month, we commemorate the namesake of our institution, Simon Wiesenthal’s birthday. Had Simon still been alive today, he would be shocked. Anti-Semitism and bigotry have once again taken center stage, threatening our world and the future of humankind. Not since the end of World War II have we witnessed such a resurgence of hate.
Simon would be astonished at how prevalent anti-Semitism is in America today. How the United States has become “ground zero” for the world’s oldest hate and how anti-Semitic incidents have hit a 42 year high across the United States.
Social media continues to fuel this phenomenon while mainstreaming hate with the help of celebrities, sports figures, even some political leaders, and others who influence tens of millions of young people every day.
That is why the work of the Center has never been more crucial and needed. As Simon Wiesenthal often reminded us, “Freedom is not a gift from heaven, it is something we have to fight for each and every day.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and CEO
Simon Wiesenthal Center
THIRD STREET PROMENADE CELEBRATES HANUKKAH & WINTERLIT DEC. 18 – 26
By SANAZ FAKHIMI
As part of Winterlit, Downtown Santa Monica will celebrate the Festival of Lights with nightly menorah lightings beginning this Sunday, Dec. 18 through Dec. 26.
Different synagogues and local groups are invited each night to light the menorah and will host their own ceremony or celebration. Winterlit celebrations will continue with live music and snow from 6 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 22.
Happy Hanukkah from your friends at
The American Sephardi Federation
In honor of Hanukkah, the ASF’s Sephardi World Weekly is pleased to present the following “Letter from the Land of Israel”:
The Sephardi philosopher and communal leader, Rabbi Yosef Albo (1380-1444), is one of the great figures of Jewish intellectual history, and his four-part work, Sefer HaIkarim (“The Book of Roots”) remains a classic of Jewish thought. Albo's work is particularly relevant during the holiday of Hanukkah, when we celebrate the Jewish victory over the Greek occupiers. There was also a tragic side to the conflict, as Jews fought other Jews. In fact, according to the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Tel Aviv, R’Hayyim David HaLevy (1924-1988), there is no commandment to celebrate a festive meal on Hanukkah because of the Jewish Civil War at the time of the Maccabean revolt. In this context, it’s worthwhile exploring one of the central intentions of R’Albo’s Sefer HaIkarim: cultivating Jewish unity.
On the surface, Sefer HaIkarim is a response to Maimonides’ enumeration of thirteen principles of the Jewish Faith. Against Maimonides (1135-1205), Albo argues that there are three principles in Judaism, not thirteen: G[-]d’s existence, reward and punishment, and the Divine revelation of the Torah.
On a deeper level, however, in Sefer HaIkarim Albo attempts to temper extremist tendencies within Judaism. Albo argues that there is authentic religious value to worship that doesn’t meet the exacting standards of stringent interpretations of Jewish Law. One of the problems with stringent interpretations of Judaism is that it demoralizes those for whom such stringencies aren't fitting. As the Moroccan sage, R’Raphael Bardugo (1747-1822), warned three centuries after Albo:
Don’t forbid more than what the Torah forbids... the Torah’s stringencies and the stringencies agreed upon by the sages of the Talmud are sufficient... but our Ashkenazi teachers increased and exaggerated stringencies... it’s clear that G[-]d doesn’t desire that we forbid what He permits, for this makes the yoke of Torah excessively heavy and causes it to be cast off, G[-]d forbid. But the text teaches, ‘It’s paths are the paths of peace’ (Proverbs, 3:17) (Misamchei Lev, Kohelet)
Albo illustrates his more expansive vision of Judaism through a beautiful metaphor that he introduces in the beginning of his book. Bees, he begins, naturally know to construct their honeycombs with six-sided hexagons. Why, Albo wonders, didn’t G[-]d create bees with the knowledge to make their hives with circles? After all, circles constitute the “perfect form,” an idea that dates back to the ancient world and that was widely held among Sephardi sages during the medieval period.
The problem, Albo continues, is that building with circles will leave gaps, or dead spaces, in the honeycomb. When circles rub up against each other, there will always be empty spaces in the corners between the circles.
Theoretically, notes Albo, you could solve the problem of gaps by building with squares. Squares will fill a surface and not leave any space between them. All of the space will be covered. Squares, however, are far from the perfection of circles.
So what is the virtue of six-sided hexagons? On the one hand, hexagons more closely approach the perfection of circles than squares. One the other hand, hexagons, like squares, leave no gaps in the hive.
The object of the metaphor should be clear: Judaism that insists upon excessive stringencies is like a honeycomb built with circles. While those circles will be complete, in and of themselves, they will leave many dead spaces between them. In other words, there will be no place for Jews who don’t act according to these stringencies. On the other hand, Judaism that is willing to build a honeycomb with squares constitutes too much of a compromise.
In Albo’s metaphor, Judaism should resemble a honeycomb constructed with hexagons. Approaching the perfection of the circle, hexagons ensure that no dead spaces, i.e., no Jews, are left behind. Judaism, a way of life intended for an entire people, should strive to bring as many Jews as close to perfection as possible.
Albo’s vision beautifully captures the animating spirit of Classic Sephardi Judaism, and it’s only fitting to remember this message during the holiday of Hanukkah. After all, the precious cruse of oil that stands for the heart of the Jewish tradition needs to be preserved for the Jewish people as a whole. In our time of religious extremism, on the one hand, and full-fledged assimilation on the other, the classic Sephardi way of balancing openness with excellence remains as relevant as it was during Albo’s lifetime.
The ASF wishes our readers a Hanukkah filled with light and imbued with the enlightened teachings of R’ Yosef Albo in Sefer HaIkarim.
HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS & UKRAINE EVACUEES HONORED
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), recently announced that the 6th annual International Holocaust Survivors Night (IHSN) will be held globally – and virtually – on the third night of Chanukah, on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
This year’s virtual event focuses on a theme of hope in the face of rising antisemitism. Remarks will be shared by dignitaries including, Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany; Isaac Herzog, President of Israel; Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, Special Adviser on Holocaust Issues to the U.S. Secretary of State; and Ellen Germain, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues U.S. State Department.
Celebrity greetings include messages from Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award winner Barbra Streisand; Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated, actor, writer and producer, Seth Rogen; Tony Award winning and Emmy-nominated actor, Jason Alexander from Seinfeld; Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actor, Henry Winkler from Happy Days and his current show Barry; Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award Winning actor, David Strathairn; and Emmy and Tony-nominated actress, Tovah Feldshuh currently starring in Funny Girl on Broadway. Participants in the event will be entertained by a musical performance shared from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene cast of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, and a song from the New York-based, a cappella singing sensation, Six13.
The virtual event will also include messages of hope from Holocaust survivors recently evacuated from Ukraine as well as survivors from over a dozen countries, including, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Director Emeritus Abe Foxman from the U.S.; Amb. Colette Avital from Israel; Kristallnacht survivor Charlotte Knobloch from Germany; famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Serge Klarsfeld from France; and Holocaust survivor and famed sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer from the U.S. Survivors will be joined by Holocaust envoys from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Croatia, and leaders from Holocaust institutions including, Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yad Vashem; Sara J. Bloomfield, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Jack Kliger, President and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City; and many more.
Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany delivered a message to survivors saying, "…the strength with which you, the survivors, have carried on, the strength with which you keep alive and pass on this memory, moves and impresses very many of us. It gives us hope. And we certainly need hope – particularly right now. Russia’s bombs and missile terror is endangering the lives and freedom of Ukrainians. Survivors of the Holocaust are also at risk, which is deeply shocking. The fact that some of them have now found refuge in Germany is very humbling for us. We are grateful to everyone who has helped them: The schools which have set up ‘welcome classes’ to enable Ukrainian children and young people to have a bright future; the communities which have taken them in. All of these examples are beacons of hope. The darker the night, the brighter they shine.”
Isaac Herzog, President of Israel also shared a message for Holocaust survivors, “…survivors of the Holocaust have experienced and witnessed, endured and overcome the darkest time of humanity. Amid the shadows that have surrounded us, I salute your deep strength, your resilience and your humanity. You're all living proof of the human capacity to triumph over tyranny, and you are an eternal inspiration for all people everywhere.”
Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference, said, “As antisemitism rises around the world and hate again becomes the normalized language of the day, survivors remind us of the importance of hope. During the Holocaust they did not give up. And after the War, they fought to carve out new lives for themselves and continue to speak and educate, all in the hope that their testimonies will win out over the hate. They never give up. Their hope is an example to us all and we have a moral imperative to carry that hope forward into the world.”
International Holocaust Survivors Night started in 2017 as the only date on the calendar celebrating Holocaust survivors and honoring them for their sacrifice and continued contributions to the world. Every year the event ends with the official menorah lighting at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Israel in honor of Holocaust survivors. Initial ceremonies were held in Israel, the United States, and Germany. International Holocaust Survivors Night has grown each year and now includes more than 15 countries across 6 continents.
Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference said, “Now is the time to honor survivors as our opportunities to celebrate them are waning. We honor them for the example of light over darkness they give us during the festival of lights. But we also celebrate them for the immense contributions they have given to the world – to a world that turned its back on them. We celebrate their perseverance, their resilience and the example they set for all of us.”
Alla Sinelnikova, Holocaust survivor recently evacuated from Ukraine to Germany, said, “You see, I have been living in the world for a very long time, and thanks to hope we only somehow survive. Because otherwise, you cannot live if there is no hope.”
Serge Klarsfeld, Holocaust survivor and famed Nazi hunter, said, “Chanukah, the festival of lights, is a great reminder to think of the hope we all carry. It is that hope that saw me through the Holocaust, fueled my career bringing Nazis to justice and it is that hope that I carry with me today when I see so much antisemitism and hatred in the world. We can all be a beacon of hope – a light in the darkness.”
The celebration will be held virtually with performances and greetings from around the globe, including from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Germany, Israel, France and more. Anyone in the world can participate for free. To join thousands of survivors, caretakers, family and friends, please click the link below on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. GMT / 8:30 p.m.
About the Claims Conference: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Israel and Germany, secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world. Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust. As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. In 2022, the Claims Conference will distribute over $700 million in compensation to over 210,000 survivors in 83 countries and allocated over $720 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food and medicine.
LINDSEY P. HARVATH SWORN IN AS NEW 3rd DISTRICT SUPERVISOR
LOS ANGELES - Lindsey P. Horvath was sworn in as Third District Supervisor on Monday at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
“It is with great honor and humility that I accept this call to serve as Supervisor for LA County’s Third District, with a clear understanding that more must be done. I would not be here today without the support of my family, my friends, my colleagues, and my allies. Thank you for believing in me, and for believing in this moment,” Supervisor Horvath said. “This seat does not belong to me – it belongs to the people of the Third District. As the Board’s 166th member – and 8th woman – I join them all in writing the next great chapter of history for Los Angeles County.”
Horvath previously served as a City Councilmember and the longest consecutively serving Mayor for the City of West Hollywood. She is the youngest woman to ever be elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the first millennial and only renter to serve on the historic all-female Board.
For more than 100 years, the Board of Supervisors was run primarily by five men. In November 2020, the residents of Los Angeles County elected Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell to represent the Second District, which marked a significant turning point in the make-up of the Board.
Horvath will oversee the Third District, which includes much of the west side, most of the San Fernando Valley, the Conejo Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to the Ventura County line, with the northern border including Chatsworth and Porter Ranch.
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