It is rare for Chanukah to start on Christmas Eve, yet this year it did. While a diversity of holiday lights brighten our community, the light of our presence is needed most.
Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, teaches about the power of proximity. As a clergyperson called to the streets in 2016, I learned about the protests and pain not from headlines but from people. Getting out of your comfort zone by going to new settings will also help you understand Charlotte’s struggles through new eyes. There is fear – undocumented students fearful of deportations, African Americans fearful of being misjudged by the police, the LGBT community fearful of having rights denied, Muslims afraid of Islamophobia and Jews afraid of anti-Semitism. Walking and talking with new people gives us reasons for hope.
Robert Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, teaches us to create solutions not by doing for others but by doing with others. Charlotte’s old way of building community was top down. Business leaders labored to solve Charlotte’s struggles from their corporate towers. Creating solutions moved to the hands of civic, philanthropic, business and faith leaders. Recent events have taught us that to find our way forward, we need to start at the grassroots.
Brad Hirschfield, author of You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right, teaches that there can be more than one truth. We create unity by finding common values and common ground with those whom we perceive to stand on the other side.
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Christmas and Chanukah are different holidays that emerged from different historical circumstances. Yet both teach messages of renewal – in the darkest of times and seasons, sources of hope can be born and light can be rekindled. May we each share the light of our presence to renew our communal life.
Schindler is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte and Rabbi Emerita of Temple Beth El.