The “paper of record,” the New York Times, marked the beginning of Hannukkah on Sunday with an op-ed claiming the Jewish holiday “at its heart is an eight-night-long celebration of religious fundamentalism and violence.”
Newsbusters reported Jewish novelist Michael David Lukas argued that any urban, secular Jews who celebrate the holiday are hypocrites.
“It’s a holiday that commemorates an ancient battle against assimilation,” he writes. “And it’s the one holiday that most assimilated Jews celebrate.”
In “The Hypocrisy of Hanukkah,” Lukas says that after consulting modern scholars and rabbis, “everyone agrees that the Maccabees won out in the end and imposed their version of Judaism on the formerly Hellenized Jews.”
“So Hanukkah, in essence, commemorates the triumph of fundamentalism over cosmopolitanism,” he contends. “Our assimilationist answer to Christmas is really a holiday about subjugating assimilated Jews.”
Well-known Orthodox Jewish rabbi Schmuley Boteach, the author of 30 books, begged to differ. He writes in a rebuttal column that the Times piece is the “latest puerile and asinine op-ed from The New York Times about Jews and Judaism.”
Boteach asserted the Maccabee revolt was “not a fundamentalist-religious movement sworn to the destruction of liberal Western ideologies.”
“It was, instead, a popular campaign to safeguard the freedom of a people to freely practice their faith and traditions regardless of the whims of an emperor,” Boteach wrote. “Unlike fundamentalist terrorist groups, which are born from intolerance of other faiths, the Maccabees fought to end the Greek intolerance of theirs.”
But Lukas writes: “The more I thought about all this, the more it disturbed me. For what am I if not a Hellenized Jew? … Why should I light candles and sing songs to celebrate a group of violent fundamentalists?”
Newsbusters noted Lukas did not mention which “modern scholars” or rabbis he consulted for his brief summary of the Maccabean revolt.
In his original piece, Lukas erroneously thought it was a war against the Romans, Newsbusters noted, which is “not a ringing endorsement of his historical accuracy.”