NEW YORK (Dec. 17)
Rabbi Louis Bernstein, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, announced that the Council has undertaken a special Chanukah project of sending gifts to wounded Israeli soldiers now recuperating in hospitals. The purpose of these gifts, he said, “is to demonstrate our identification with these brave men” and to boost the morale of the soldiers “who will understand that they are not isolated, that they have friends and brethren across the world who remember them and want to assure them that their fight was not for themselves but for all mankind.”
Rabbi Bernstein noted the great similarity be tween the events that led to the original celebration of Chanukah and today’s events in the Middle East. Twenty five hundred years ago a band of Hebrews under the leadership of Mattathias, the Maccabeans, revolted against the oppression of the Syrians and despite overwhelming odds succeeded in establishing themselves as a viable state, free to pursue their religious practices, culture and heritage.
Today, he continued, “it is still the Syrians who are involved, it is still a people few in number against overwhelming odds, struggling to retain their homes, their way of life, their religious principles, their culture and civilization against those who would seek to inundate and destroy them.” Again, Rabbi Bernstein observed, “their options are limited: they must either struggle and fight for their way of life or disappear, In that sense their battle represents not only a struggle for themselves but a struggle for principles which all humanity must hold precious.”
HERITAGE KEPT ALIVE BY ISRAEL
New York Mayor John V. Lindsay stated that the heroic struggle of the Maceabeans is being repeated today by the Israelis who are “keeping alive the flame of the ancient heritage, the precious spiritual and ethical values of Judaism. Their work is the culmination of a 2000-year dream. But it is a beginning, not an end.” He noted that countless challenges still confront the Jewish people every day: unremitting threats to the survival of Israel, the persistent denial of basic freedom to Soviet Jews, the severe conditions endured by Jews living in Arab countries. “In the midst of all this,” Lindsay said, “there is a need to recall–and to recreate again and again–the strength of the Maccabees, and the hope of a stable peace.”
Benjamin S. Loewenstein, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, announced that a community assembly to express solidarity for peace in the Middle East has been scheduled to coincide with the start of the Geneva peace talks and the first night of Chanukah. At the assembly Thursday night at the Main Line Reform Temple, which will be sponsored by the JCRC and the Philadelphia Zionist Federation, ” we will join the Israelis in expressing our hope that a permanent and durable peace will be agreed to at the Geneva talks,” Loewenstein said, Emanuel Grossman, PZF president, said the assembly will also focus on Syria’s continued violation of the Geneva Convention.
DISPLAY PICTURES OF SYRIAN ATROCITIES
Loewenstein also announced that beginning with the first night of Chanukah and continuing throughout the eight days of the holiday, booths in five key locations in the center of Philadelphia will feature pictures of Syrian atrocities against Israeli POWs and provide information about Syria’s refusal to exchange war prisoners with Israel. At the same time, persons staffing the booths will gather signatures on petitions to be sent to United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
Rabbi Jacob J, Hecht, executive vice-president of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education, announced that Toys for Hospitalized Children, a volunteer organization which each year distributes thousands of new toys at Chanukah time to children of all races and creeds who are hospitalized in city state and private hospitals, has launched its 1973 drive, The goal this year, Rabbi Hecht said, is 25,000 toys.
The newly established American Sephardi Federation issued its first Chanukah message today as Haim Eliachar of Boston, chairman of the ASF board, sent its greetings to the government and people of Israel, to all its members and to the American Jewish community affirming that in the tradition of the ancient Maccabees “we today must fight for our survival and preserve our heritage and reaffirm our goals as one people indivisible under God.”