100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

November 29, 1991 - Image 196

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Jewish Heroines: Judith and Hannah

By DARYL L. LEITER

Women have played significant
roles in the perpetuation of
Judaism. It is a sad commentary
that we know so little about these
incidences.
Indeed, during times of
persecution many women have
served their people with distinction,
bravery and wisdom. Rabbi Joshua
ben Levi stated, "Women are
obligated to light the Chanukah
menorah for they took part in the
miracle." (Shabbat 23a)
As Chanukah approaches we
should remember the stories of two
Jewish women, Judith and Hannah.
The little-known story of Judith
takes place during the reign of
Nebuchadnezzar, one of the
Assyrian rulers. Nebuchadnezzar
sends Holofernes to defeat the Jews
of Bethulia. After a month-long
siege — the end is near for the
Jews. Judith, a "brilliant and
beautiful" young widow, enters the
tent of Holofernes, who is
completely "taken" by her. Judith
feeds him cheese and wine until
Holofernes falls into a drunken
sleep at which time Judith beheads
him, places the wrapped head on a
platter and sneaks out of camp.
When the Assyrian soldiers realize
what has become of their leader,
the soldiers flee panic-stricken.
The story of the second
Chanukah heroine, Hannah, and her
seven sons, is well-known.

Antiochus decreed that all Jews
must "partake in swine." When
Hannah and her sons refuse, each
son is brutally tortured in front of
Hannah. She does not relent,
though each son dies before her
eyes. Hannah then suffers the same
fate.
However unsubstantiated and
fragmented the details of the two
stories are, their significance in the
traditional holiday customs and
religious faith cannot be mitigated.
The eating of dairy foods on
Chanukah is related back to Judith
feeding Holofernes cheese and
Hannah's courage inspired victims
and martyrs time and again
throughout our history.
For the contemporary Jewish
woman, the stories of Hannah and
Judith carry important messages.
The story of Judith illustrates
characteristics (courage, physical
aggression, and direct confrontation)
often thought of as traditionally
male. Hannah is the opposite of the
stereotypical submissive woman.
Indeed, both women fought for the
right of a minority to be different yet
equal and independent. Today
women such as these can and must
be heard on two fronts: as Jews
and as women.
The role of the present-day
Jewish heroine is evolving with
changes in social mores and
religious Halachah. In both the
religious and secular communities
contemporary women are

perpetuating the spirit of Judith and
Hannah. A huge impact has been
made on secular issues by such
religious traditionalists as Letty
Cottin Pogrebin (founding editor of
Ms. magazine), Carmela Kalmonson
(international president of
Hadassah), and Shoshana Cardin,
(chairperson of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations).
Eminent scholars such as
Susan Weidman Schneider have
thrown new light on such vital social
issues as anti-Semitism and
women's rights. Historians Sondra
Henry and Emily Taitz have
heightened our awareness of the
important role of Jewish women in
our history.
Although rabbis and cantors are
now being ordained in the Reform
and Conservative movements of our
religious communities, acceptance
in all areas is not complete. There
are deep schisms between liberal
Jews who wish to include women in
all aspects of the rabbinate, and
traditionalists who feel such
concessions threaten the very
essence of Jewish and family life.
But the highly visible presence
of women in Jewish communal life
and leadership is having far-
reaching effects across the Jewish
spectrum. Today's Jewish students,
liberal or traditional, expect to see
female scholars, rabbis and cantors.
Sondra Henry and Emily Taitz
conclude with their newest book,

Written Out Of History: Our Jewish
Foremothers, with the following

statement: "A commitment to
Judaism need not preclude a
commitment to equal rights and
equal recognition of women as a
dynamic force in society and history.
Jewish history confirms our right to
take on this challenge, and gives us
precedents to follow while at the
same time it binds us more closely
to our heritage."

Daryl L. Leiter is Religious School
Coordinator at Congregation
Shaarey Zedek.

DREIDEL PUZZLE

N U N)
H A Y)

M
M
E
L
N UN.) L KJ
• P
K J
()-IAY SAO A
P T R W
N B
H
G IMMEL Y K FDAWO M ✓ CXZ
S H IN) NMENORAH L M DAWQZ N
AWOUDRE I DEL I P E DWXCVF
B XNGIRL(SHIN)KJ L BOYOWE
EMOUSEXZWE
N UN) RWOZX
BV C X Z A(H A Y)J
H AY JHFD
MME L
ZCBKHBV
DWQ Z X C F(S H I N)
FOURAN
U D A H M A C C A B E E
eigp K Y P 0
H I N.) J HFDWO (NUN)
K MOIR B 0 GI MME L) J N C V X Z O W
K JIZIKJHFRWOXZ ISH IN BVXZ
CXRWO
H ANUK KAHGAME
B(GIMMEL)BDW
K RWO Z B H Y 0
I RG I MME L

K J C
Y R
X W
H O
A V
Y K
F UNFU N
H AY A
HA

Standing Up For Who You Are

Continued from Page L-1

Chanukah is the story of the Jews'
struggle against each other. It is the
story of Jews struggling with
assimilation and a rampant
hedonistic culture. Chanukah is a
story about what to do with free
time, and whether to spend it
Jewishly. It is the story of the Jews'
struggle against oppression and
fight for religious freedom. It is the
story of victory. And, it is the story
of miracles.
On Passover, we are taught that
we must tell the story as if each of
us, ourselves, is going out of Egypt.
However, it seems that Chanukah
has so many parallels to
contemporary conflicts and
struggles of daily living that it is the
story of Chanukah that we really
relive today.
The time between Thanksgiving
and Christmas in American society,
is a time that challenges Jews. No
matter how assimilated we may
have become, we own very little of
this season.
I remember in kindergarten

L-4

FRIDAY, NOV, 29, 1991

having been delighted to discover
that my teacher had finally chosen
a holiday song to which I could
relate. Its title was "Deck the Halls
with Balls of Challie." I couldn't wait
to race home and share it with my
sister. She was nine. I was five. She
quickly corrected my blunder with
less than a sensitive approach. It
wasn't that I didn't know I was
Jewish, and it really wasn't that I
felt burdened by being Jewish. It
was simply that at age five, I really
wanted to find a source of
commonality with my friends during
a time in which they were so happy.
Regardless of how wonderful
and glorious our Chanukah
celebrations become, the
boundaries between Jew and
gentile are rarely more profound
than at this season.
So, one might ask again, how
is Chanukah like an onion? An
onion is strong. An onion's
characteristics are distinct.
Chanukah is a holiday of strength
and distinction, and it gives us the

opportunity to capitalize on these
qualities.

It offers at least one more
opportunity as well: Several years
ago I recall petitioning my husband
with something I truly wanted.
Whatever it was, it was clearly not
something that was vital. About half
way through the discussion, my
then five-year-old daughter piped up
with, "Ima, don't you know the
difference between wants and
needs?"
Chanukah offers a wonderfully
appropriate chance to talk to our
children about the difference
between wants and needs. The
dialogue might be something like
this:

"Yes, I understand that
you want this. And you know
what, it's OK to wish that you
could have something different
than what you have. But this is
not something you need."

Chanukah tells the story of
being different. It glorifies the

characters that dared to be different.
In the simple act of retelling the
Chanukah story we claim our own
difference. We become distinct by
retelling a story of distinction.
Perhaps, the real miracle of the
Chanukah lights is not found in the
endurance of the cruse of oil, but
rather in the light that small flame is
able to ignite in each of us during
this season.

Chanukah is the perfect
opportunity for family discussions
about daring to stand up for what
you believe. Reread the story of
Chanukah as a family. Then try
asking your family, "How is
Chanukah like an onion?" See what
they come up with. Or better yet, try
coming up with your own
metaphors.

Harlene Winnick Appelman is
director of Jewish Experiences For
Families, consultant to the Jewish
Community's education task force
and advisor to L'Chayim.

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan