My husband and I have a large collection of Judaica: ritual objects for the Passover seder, a wide assortment of kiddush cups and candlesticks for Shabbat, antique spice boxes for Havdalah and even an heirloom etrog holder for Sukkot. But my personal favorite of all these ritual objects is the silver Hanukkah menorah engraved with a depiction of Judith carrying the severed head of the Assyrian general Holfernes.
The story tells us how Judith served the general some salty food (perhaps some cheese) and he was so thirsty after eating that he drank too much wine, fell asleep and Judith beheaded him. Judith’s story occurred centuries before the Maccabee tale, but the two stories have become intertwined with folk-tales often mentioning Judith as Judah Maccabee’s aunt or daughter.
Historical inaccuracies aside, kindling the Judith hanukiah reminds me of the fearless women who are part of our history. Women named and nameless who have fought tyranny and persecution and the thousands of women who have battled valiantly for Israel’s right to exist.
Cantor Evan Kent lives in Jerusalem where he is on faculty at Hebrew Union College. Previous to making Aliyah, Evan was the cantor for 25 years at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles.
Eight nights, eight ways to deepen your involvement, awareness and impact
For each night of Hanukkah, we have a recommended activity — a way to learn more about the issues, get more involved in J Street or help drive change. You can do all eight in order, switch them up, or pick and choose what’s most meaningful to you.