Chanukah Lights, Golden Latkes, Spinning Dreidels and Chocolate Gelt will be filling The Friendship Circle building in the coming weeks as friends from near and far gather together in a range of unique, exciting and festive programs to celebrate the festival that has our scales tipping and hearts warming.
Truly reflective of the spot Friendship Circle fills in the hearts of those that walk through its doors, this festive time sees numerous alumni revisit for various programs equally excited to see their friends, relive the memories and make a few new ones. While the strain of graduates heading off to college can be a challenging transition as new friendships are formed, this only makes the reunion of past connections even more special. This year will see the first ever formal Friendship Circle Alumni Reunion, as friends will escape the cold, and enter the warmth of the new building to celebrate Chanukah, in a true amalgamation of past, present and future.
As Friendship Circle Alumni bring the past of the organization from its early beginnings, to the forefront of where these advocates are now, a similar relationship can be realized from the story of Chanukah and how it lights up our world today. As the lights of the menorah, cast a magical glow on our reunions and relationships during this time of a year, a thought can be given to what exactly what we’re commemorating and how we can take this forward.
Whilst the traditional story fits in line with that of most Jewish holidays: “They wanted to eradicate us, we fought, we won, let’s eat,” attention should be paid to the fact that the plight of the Jews started off as a spiritual one. The Syrian Greeks living and ruling over the holy land at the time saw no value in the Jews keeping to their own beliefs of Torah and Mitzvos. Seeing it as incumbent that the Jews drop these values and adopt those of the majority, the Greeks set in place decrees curbing the Jewish people’s ability to live as they knew to be true. What transpired was a physical war in defense of these values where the Maccabees, a small group of Jews managed to fend off the army of a large and powerful nation.
Too often history has repeated itself, allowing for majority populations to undermine the validity of smaller less resourceful ones. Now more than ever, educating our youth has become central to ensuring they are gifted with the strength and knowledge to know and put in place the correct social practices that will enable all individuals to shine regardless of ability, beliefs or background. A step into the Friendship Circle is an experience that stays with friends as they walk out and follows them everywhere thereafter, especially palpable when they come back to visit. It’s the true understanding via experience, that all individuals have an important place to fill in this world, regardless if the path to getting there differs slightly.
As we look up to the Chanukah lights this year, watching as they increase night by night, now more than ever is a time to think how far our community has come in making room for everyone, and how much more action we have to take
This post was written by Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh’s Director of Operations, Mor Greenberg