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This Hanukkah be a light to the community by inviting others in

By Neil Blumofe
Special to the American-Statesman
Rabbi Neil Blumofe of Congregation Agudas Achim speaks at a news conference where dozens of faith leaders and elected officials gathered to show their support of the Jewish community in a time of recent antisemitic acts.

In this holiday season, let us seek to act beyond what we normally do. Let us commit to transforming our lives in service to each other. We have great opportunity to get involved and sweeten our days.

On Hanukkah, we have the opportunity to live each day of our precious lives as the gimmel on the Hanukkah dreidel — living all in on every spin.

How willing are we to get involved? How strong can our beloved Austin community be if we each took a vested interest in and showed up for our neighbors in different communities across this city?

This Hanukkah, let us not light our lights behind drawn shades, let us not play dreidel without new friends. Hanukkah especially is a time for us to publicize the holy bonds that we have in helping our entire community prosper.

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We are to take pride in our traditions and deploy them for good. In these coming weeks, invite a new friend out for a walk around the lake. Sit outside and have coffee together. Bring someone new into your home, share a latke (potato pancake) or a sweet doughnut, and allow your gentle curiosity to guide you in building friendships as you talk about what matters to each of you and to all of us. Be encouraged to tell your story and to listen in return.

We are the ones who determine the tenor of our community. Like the Maccabees of old, we are to fight for the world that we seek and not passively wait for it to occur around us. We are to repel provocateurs.

We are not to apologize for our differences — rather we are to highlight them as we offer our friendship. We are to engage, creating bonds of connection and wide networks of alliances that go deep. We are to cherish these bonds and networks with care, respect and diligence.

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Don’t let these days pass us by. We revel in the daily miracle of our lives — and we know that the true blessing of the Festival of Lights was to light that very first light, not knowing how long it would burn, or what would come after it.

Let us dream big dreams and let us let the activity of each day get us closer to where we would like to be. Let us commit to fashioning relationships that will stand up strong in the constant gusts of anxiety and antagonism. This work is steady, holy defiance.

Let us tend to our community by modeling belonging, offering the kind of friendships that we ourselves desire, as we take a chance on love. We are to remember that the true test of friendship is not to say I love you in moments of convenience or spectacle, rather it is to do the hard work every day to know someone else’s pain and to carry a part of their burden.

In these days of uncertainty especially, this work allows us to serve and receive with a sustaining power.

Hanukkah means dedication. May these lessons of commitment and faith inspire us to strengthen moral respect in our community in order to chase away hate and violence with steadfast and dependable care and attention. What we do everyday becomes a habit which shapes the development of our character.

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Let us never retreat from the opportunity we have to make our home in Austin a home of which we are proud.

May we be blessed with good health, generosity, and patience in this special season, deepening our practices of consideration, thoughtfulness, compassion and civic engagement.

Rabbi Neil Blumofe is the senior rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim and on faculty at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas,