In honor of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, we felt it fitting to illuminate the individuals behind the scenes—working tirelessly to connect communities, forge relationships, strengthen the foundations upon which our partnership is built, and continue leading programs to unite the Jewish people. This is particularly true in the Hadera-Eiron region and the communities in the Southeastern United States and Prague.
Here, P2G professionals share their thoughts on the light, spark, or hope that brightens their lives, especially during these challenging times.
Tereza Kotláriková (Prague, CZ)
Light in the darkness.
Exactly two months after the terrorist attack, we are celebrating Hanukkah. A holiday that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek army and King Antiochus IV. At the same time, we commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. The light that gives me strength and courage today is to see the unity and togetherness of Israel and the Diaspora, to support each other, and to share. And just as the Maccabees prevailed, I believe we too will soon triumph over evil and emerge from the darkness. Am Israel Chai.
Rabbi Eli Sneiderman (Greensboro, NC)
In difficult times, I am reminded of the miracle of Hanukkah. The light of the Menorah came from olive oil. Olives by themselves don’t light. If you try, all you will get is smoke. It is only after the olives have been crushed that the oil comes out. Even then, most of the crushed olive is just an ill-smelling juice. It takes work to find the “olive oil” in every difficult situation. Yet, in the end, that is where the light comes from.
Noah Goldman (Charlotte, NC)
It goes well without saying but these are very difficult times for Israel and the Jewish People. But it is a time to cling to the positive lights that we have. For me, that is community and family. The Jewish community has come out in full support of their brethren in Israel. We very much understand that we are one nation and that we are all in this together in this fight for survival and against antisemitism. My other light is family. I have a lot of family in Israel and I am so deeply inspired by their courage and bravery. I have relatives serving on the front lines in Gaza and I have family holding down the fort for their local communities serving as best they can to support everyone. The courage in the face of all the anxiety and fear is so deeply inspiring. It has given me the strength to fight for Israel in my community – to stand with my family and friends in Israel. Be’ezrat HaShem we will have better days for all of us soon.
Erin Boynton (Charleston, SC)
Amid these challenging times for the Jewish community in Israel and around the world, the upcoming week of Hanukkah stands as a beacon, reminding us of the enduring triumph of light over darkness. It's a time when we reflect on the words of Golda Meir, who wisely said, "Those who don't know how to weep with their whole heart, don't know how to laugh either." These words carry a deep truth, especially in the shared experiences of our global Jewish family.
In the face of uncertainties, what brightens the darkness for me is the unique connection between American Jews and Israelis. Despite the physical distance, our shared heritage binds us together, weaving a thread of resilience that transcends borders. The tears shed for the challenges in Israel resonate among American Jews, creating a profound sense of solidarity. As we confront the shadows, the laughter and triumphs are equally shared, bridging the miles that separate us.
As we approach Hanukkah, let the glow of each candle not just symbolize historical victories but also represent the unity of our diverse Jewish family. In lighting the menorah, may it embody the intertwined hopes, dreams, and determination of Jews across the globe, weaving a narrative of strength and resilience against the backdrop of adversity.
Ann Treadwell (Chattanooga, TN)
The first light inspires me every day! I purposely wake up before dawn. The dogs, Charlie and Frankie, walk with me down the gravel driveway into the woods. Usually as we round the corner back to the house the dawn light just begins to peer over the top of the mountain. The night creatures disappear. The birds chirp to welcome the day. I walk in the back door to resume my “real” day with my Israeli door harp twinkling a tone of hope.
Eitan Snyder (Nashville, TN)
Something that brightens the darkness for me is music. I live in Music City, we have a reputation to uphold here! Listening to Israeli music in particular is a tangible reminder of how special Israel is. Whether it's the multicultural melodies of Idan Raichel, the soaring voice of Raviv Kaner, the beautiful mixing of Hebrew and Arabic by Valerie Hamaty, or so many of the other amazing artists in Israel, Israeli music makes me feel like I am there with everyone and helps me feel more connected to Israelis and Jews around the world as we all live through these difficult times together.
Sara Rosenbaum (Richmond, VA)
Being with my community brings me hope during this difficult time. Community is the people I see every day and also the community around the world especially my friends and family in Israel whom I think about constantly. Our collective memories and work will help us all bring light to the world and give me hope that we will get through this difficult time in our history, as Jews always prevail.
Jill Metlin (Northeast Florida)
My Hanukkah lights. December 7th, two months to the day of the horrific attack on our Israeli family, it can be hard to find the light. The beauty of Hanukkah and the lights of the candles remind me each year that there is always hope - especially for the Jewish people. Yes, this year is different but at the same time, it's not - because Israel and the Jewish people have hope and will rise above the hate, rise above terrorism, and rise above this war and thrive again. I can't wait to light my menorah tonight and to join mine with my community's many lights to find some peace and always hope. Am Yisrael Chai.
Kara Gold-Harris (Florida's Gulf Coast)
The light of my life, like so many parents out there, is my sweet one-year-old daughter Rosalyn. She grows so much every single day, and the joy I feel having the honor of watching that growth fills my soul with enough light and love to see me through each new day – no matter what may come. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but could have never guessed the full spectrum of love that my heart was capable of until I knew her.
Maxine S. Kaufman (Florida's Gulf Coast)
Typically, I am a “glass half full” type of person. Since October 7th it has been more and more difficult to think this way. Faced with war, hatred, antisemitism, and anti-zionism, I have been forced to meet these views head-on and contemplate what is good in my world. So each morning, after I open my eyes and before I reach for my phone to check on the many emails that are already filling my inbox, I say out loud, “Modeh ani”. I don’t recite the whole prayer, but I know in my heart and soul that the words and meaning of the prayer will give me the power that I need to continue. “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”
Shuli Hasheli (Israel)
The two things that spark my days in these dark times are people and music. Many people keep inspiring me for their strong spirits, their drive to do good, and their will to help whoever and however they can. And music is like oxygen to me. I choose to listen to songs that have positive and healing lyrics ( mostly in Hebrew 😊), and they help strengthen my belief that we can overcome our challenges.
Ravid Fleisher (Israel)
Pardes Hanna is known for its musical community, and its focus on healing. Even in a time as dark as this, I see people holding on to their belief that things will get better, and that we are strong and our hearts are, although broken daily, also open and resilient. One thing that brightens my days lately is a weekly gathering I go to every Thursday, where my friends gather around a fire and sing together. Each song is led by a different person in the circle, and everyone joins in, singing and playing their instruments. A few weeks into the war, we all sang Hatikva together, and it was so intentional and powerful - people almost shouted the words and hugged while they were singing. Once again, I was reminded of the healing power of music, when the words of Hatikva suddenly resonated so strongly within me- “To be a free people in our country”.
Shimrit Orgal (Israel)
Since October 7, my life, much like many others, has changed beyond recognition. My husband and daughter were called up to the army on the same day, with only a two-hour interval, and since then, each has served in his designated area in the north and south. The conversation at home mainly revolves around when they'll be coming home and how well-coordinated they can be to ensure our family reunites on Shabbat.
Meanwhile, everyone around me has been directly or indirectly affected by that same day, and the echoes of the events impact all of us on a national level. The weight of the collective experience is felt in every interaction, a subtle reminder that we are bound together by the threads of resilience and unity. As an Israeli, the sense of responsibility to one another has become even more profound, creating a tapestry of emotions that range from sorrow to unwavering determination.
My light during this time is a sense of pride and fulfillment as I dedicate my efforts to an organization tirelessly working for the well-being of the Jewish people, both near and far. It is a privilege to lead programs for those directly affected by that dreadful Saturday. Each endeavor is not just a task; it is an emotional journey of compassion, resilience, and unwavering support for those who carry the weight of that tragic day on their shoulders.