With last candle, thoughts on taking Hanukkah into the rest of the year

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Kate Orlanski

ENDING: As the menorah readies for eight candles at once, it’s a good time to consider to manage assimilation versus authenticity during the rest of the year.

By Rachel Lasry, Senior Writer

As Modern Orthodox Jews, we’re all well versed in the practice of combining our authentic selves with who we feel we are supposed to be. We’re constantly struggling, always forced onto the middle ground that lies between being an ordinary American teenager and being a Modern Orthodox Jew. 

We’re always in the middle ground between the two parts of ourselves, the part that wants to wear pants and the part that wants to wear skirts, the part that wants to go to yeshiva and the part that wants to start college, the part that looks forward to keeping Shabbat and the part that’s waiting for Saturday night. 

It’s hard to know when is a time to adapt and follow our teenage instincts and when our Orthodoxy should trump all else. It’s easy to get lost in one or the other. 

We all know how the story of Chanukah played out, and it all began with the assimilation of many Jews into Greek culture. On the one hand, I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that I could never just be brainwashed into losing my Judaism in another culture.  On the other, maybe assimilation isn’t as simple a subject as we thought. 

As people who are immersed in varying cultures ourselves, we know it’s possible to feel we have multiple facets to our identity. So the question of Hanukkah remains. Is assimilation an issue today? How do we approach conflicts between our identity as American teenagers and our identity as Modern Orthdox Jews? 

While we aren’t assimilated to a concerning point as were the Jews of the Maccabees’ time, we definitely must take caution when living a Modern Othodox lifestyle. Choosing to be single-faceted in many ways is the easier choice. However, there’s no clean-cut rulebook for Modern Orthodoxy, no dictionary definition, and it’s up to us to lead our Westernized lifestyles while maintaining our Modern Orthodox morals, no matter how hard it can be.

We’re constantly struggling, always forced onto the middle ground that lies between being an ordinary American teenager and being a Modern Orthodox Jew.”

Being caught between two identities is never easy, but at the end of the day it makes our character that much stronger. This Hanukkah, celebrate the G-d given miracle that is your authenticity. Celebrate that you can choose to be whoever you want to be, even if it’s not the cookie-cutter Jew or American teenager that typically exists. 

Celebrate that you have the freedom and the opportunities to be both. And as you leave this holiday behind, carry all parts of yourself into your future with pride, never losing sight of who you are.