Finding Light in the Darkness – Being “A Light Unto Nations”

By David Cohen

This is the season of giving thanks and the season of finding light in the darkness of winter.  We are of course thankful that many of the hostages taken on October 7th are headed home – but we cannot forget those lost and those still in captivity.  We are thankful for our families and the rich and vibrant Jewish communities that we have forged here in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.  And as we look to the lights of the Chanukah menorah to help us find our way in this increasingly dark time, I am reminded of the passage from the Book of Isaiah where we read “I have taken your hand, and submitted you … as a light unto nations.”

Just as the lights of Chanukah guide our way, we are reminded that we ourselves, our community, the nation of Israel – we are a light unto nations with our values, our sense of community, our steadfast belief in education, and the elements of civil society that are the core of democracies around the globe.

I continue to wrestle with the events of the past month and a half, and I am listening to even more moral equivalency and seeing the world once again shift its ire and double standards toward Israel.  In the face of that - this passage gives me comfort.  It reminds me of the truth. 

As we remember that those still in captivity need this light in the darkness, it also occurred to me to highlight just how many captives and those killed were people who came to Israel to make a better life for themselves.  They saw Israel as that light unto nations – not much different than how immigrants see the flame of the Statue of Liberty.  I am not hearing nearly enough about these brave individuals, who they were, and why they sought Israel as a place to start a new life or a place to live and work to support their families back home. 

They were nurses who took care of our grandparents and our aging parents and were really part of the family.

They were agricultural workers.

They were students who came to study on kibbutz.

As we think about light in this way - as a beacon of gathering, as a symbol of our values, and as a motivator of inspirational and aspirational journeys, I can’t help but think about the flame of the Alexander Grass Campus for Jewish Life.

This month, we will be formally launching our 2024 annual campaign.  And when you think about why this is important given all that is happening all over the world, I think it is this theme of light, of being a beacon to the community, and of being a beacon to the world.

Vibrant Jewish life must go on here in Greater Harrisburg - and in Israel.  And together, as a community, we play a role in that.  Whether in our advocacy and support for Israel with our feet – or with our dollars.  This is what we do.  When we create a community on our new campus with our Brenner Family Early Learning Center students, our Seniors, or our Teens – this is what we do.

Just as Israel is a beacon of light to all who choose to accept her and even embrace her – we are all a part of this global beacon, this flame here in Harrisburg.  We are all part of bringing its warmth to our community and all who wish to partner with us.

We hope you will see the future we are creating as that flame and as that beacon you will help us kindle, sustain, nurture, and grow – this year and the years to come.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!