Opinion | On Chanukah and the Use of Force / By Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum

Following the recent tragic assault in Pittsburgh, American Jews have been grappling with how best to secure and, if necessary, defend our synagogue communities. Synagogues have been understandably ambivalent about requiring armed protection at a house of worship and/or adding layers of security to our sacred spaces where welcoming is the norm.

As we celebrate Chanukah, we are reminded that we are not the first generation of Jews who have had to balance the desire for peace with the necessity of force. We gather around menorahs, kindling light against the many kinds of darkness that threaten our sense of safety, security and shelter. This season in particular, we may find new insights in the stories we tell and the songs we sing about the Maccabees’ militant defense of the Jews of Judea who wished to practice their religion on their own terms two millennia ago.

For all its pragmatism, Jewish tradition is of course also idealistic. What would our Jewish spiritual tradition be without its love of peace and its yearning for the fruits of peace? Almost 2,000 years ago, Rabbi Yossi HaGalili taught: “How praiseworthy is peace? Even in time of war, Jewish law requires that one initiate discussions of peace” (Leviticus Rabbah, Tzav 9).


This toll is the often corresponding rise in domestic violence/intimate partner abuse. Our dedication to the value of strong and safe families means we must be alert to it.

A growing body of research stimulated by the implementation in many countries of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 (recently passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress as the Women, Peace, and Security Act) points toward this connection between violent social conflict and domestic violence. But it is taken one step further in a working paper authored by Italo A. Gutierrez and Jose V. Gallegos, published by the Rand Corporation as “The Effect of Civil Conflict on Domestic Violence: The Case of Peru.”

These researchers found that exposure to societal violence correlated with an increase in domestic violence as societal violence became normalized. They also found that women who were most exposed to conflict and the broad use of force to solve problems in society were more likely to justify violence by men against women and were more likely to stay in violent relationships.

Read the full article on Jewish Exponent

Published also on The Washington Jewish Week