Jewish leaders honor Hanukkah, emphasize overcoming oppression

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Acts of antisemitism are on the rise across the country compared to last year. That’s based on numbers from the Anti-Defamation League, which show a 34 percent increase in 2021 compared to 2020.

In honor of Monday being the first day of Hanukkah, Jewish leaders said they want the community to remember that oppression, can be overcome.

“It tells a story, an American story, of freedom and of fight against oppression,” said Leonard Rogoff with Jewish Heritage North Carolina.

Monday is the first full day of Hanukkah. “Hanukkah celebrates a small group of Jews called the Maccabees who fought and defeated a much larger army led by a tyrant,” explained Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman, rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom. A Jewish holiday, yes, but also one Harley Karz-Wagman said comes with a message we can all understand: overcoming tyranny.

“The lesson is that we, fighting for things like freedom and love and justice and kindness, can engage all this other support, all these other resources,” he explained.

But the holiday comes during a time of antisemitism nationally and here in our state. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League reported 13 antisemitic incidents in 2020. That number rose to 30 in 2021.

“North Carolina has always been a home to a large number of hate groups, and we’ve seen antisemitic flyers distributed in Raleigh, in Cary, in Greensboro,” said Rogoff.

“I find the growth in antisemitism to be really genuinely frightening,” said Karz-Wagman. But the message of hope – rising above the hate. “The forces against it. Government, law enforcement, corporate America. If outsiders can be the ones to fight against it, that’s the most effective.”

Jewish leaders say there are also signs of progress in elected leaders who are Jewish. For example, Josh Stein, the Attorney General, is Jewish. Congresswoman Kathy Manning is also the first Jew in North Carolina to be elected to Congress.