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Virginia city cancels menorah lighting to avoid appearing to side with Israel

Dec 04, 2023

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A Williamsburg, Virginia, organizer has canceled a planned Hanukkah celebration out of concern that it might send a “pro-Israel message” and “signal support of the killings of thousands of people in Gaza.” A local rabbi had been scheduled to lead the event prior to its cancellation.

The decision to cancel the Jewish tradition has sparked condemnation from the wider Jewish community.

“We should be very clear: It is antisemitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s policies and actions, and to require a political litmus test for Jews’ participation in community events,” The United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula said in a statement.

Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, and Israel’s subsequent attacks on the Gaza Strip, antisemitism has risen sharply in the United States and around the world.

Hate crimes against Palestinians have also spiked, as the conflict in Gaza continues to divide people around the world into pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian camps.

“The concern is of folks feeling like we are siding with a group over the other… not a direction we ever decide to head,” Shirley Vermillion, founder of the Second Sundays Art and Musical Festival, told the Daily Press.

United Jewish Community leaders say they were informed that the event would be rescheduled if the celebration were to be held under a “ceasefire banner.” They also commented that the menorah lighting was not intended to be political in any way.

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[Karah Rucker]

A VIRGINIA HANUKAH CELEBRATION HAS BEEN CANCELED BECAUSE IT SENDS “A PRO-ISRAEL MESSAGE”  AND WOULD “SIGNAL SUPPORT OF THE KILLINGS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN GAZA.”

THAT’S THE REASONING FROM A WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA ORGANIZER TO CANCEL A MENORAH LIGHTING THAT WAS GOING TO BE LED BY A LOCAL RABBI DURING THEIR UPCOMING FESTIVAL.

SECOND SUNDAY’S DECISION TO CANCEL THE CELEBRATION OF A THOUSANDS-YEAR-OLD TRADITION DUE TO THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR HAS SPARKED CONDEMNATION FROM THE JEWISH COMMUNITY.

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF THE VIRGINIA PENINSULA SAID: “WE SHOULD BE VERY CLEAR: IT IS ANTISEMITIC TO HOLD JEWS COLLECTIVELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ISRAEL’S POLICIES AND ACTIONS, AND TO REQUIRE A POLITICAL LITMUS TEST FOR JEWS’ PARTICIPATION IN COMMUNITY EVENTS.”

[Karah Rucker]

SINCE THE OCTOBER SEVENTH ATTACK BY HAMAS ON ISRAEL, AND ISRAEL’S RETALIATORY STRIKES, ANTI-SEMITISM HAS RISEN STARKLY, AND THE CONFLICT OVERSEAS HAS LARGELY DIVIDED THE WORLD BETWEEN PRO-PALESTINIAN AND PRO-ISRAEL SIDES.

SHIRLEY VERMILLION – THE “SECOND SUNDAYS ART AND MUSICAL FESTIVAL’S FOUNDER” – TOLD THE DAILY PRESS: “THE CONCERN IS OF FOLKS FEELING LIKE WE ARE SIDING WITH A GROUP OVER THE OTHER…NOT A DIRECTION WE EVER DECIDE TO HEAD.”

[Karah Rucker]

ACCORDING TO THE “UNITED JEWISH COMMUNITY” LEADERS, THEY SAY THEY WERE TOLD THE EVENT WOULD BE RESCHEDULED IF THE CELEBRATION WERE HELD UNDER A “CEASEFIRE BANNER.” THEY SAY THE MENORAH LIGHTING WOULD NOT BE POLITICAL IN ANY WAY.