Progressively Speaking: Is Chanukah becoming too commercialised?

Progressively Speaking: Is Chanukah becoming too commercialised?

Rabbi Neil Janes asks whether Chanukah has been transformed into a Jewish version of Christmas

Chanukah’s popularity has been propelled by Zionism and Christmas, but I haven’t seen a single synagogue or communal organisation commercialising Chanukah.

The problem is religious values and rituals have been wrenched from us as they are used to sell everything you never knew you needed.

Every business is in search of new ways to lighten your bank balance by making you feel or look better.

Community and sacred time, the lifeblood of meaningful Jewish life, have become the latest targets.

We have stiff competition now for genuine and fulfilling life. Supermarkets and pubs are muscling in on our patch, selling lifestyles, not ways of living, and in our cash-strapped times, there’s good reason to be worried.

If we cannot be convincing in the market place of ideas and relationships, Judaism will not be viable.

Equally, we have to resist falling into the trap of seeking to bestow love and meaning on our nearest and dearest with ‘things’. This is not a plea for some kind of monastic life. I know the pleasure of giving and receiving presents. Some friends are preparing to theme their presents, reducing how much is spent and by whom, etc.

But here’s what I will do. Chanukah is a festival of dedication to creating a home for the presence of the Holy One. Make a commitment to the progressive Jewish ideas of family and community.

Judaism is in the business of sanctifying time and building enduring relationships. That is the true meaning of our calendar and the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.

I know in our pressured lives that time is the gift that is of the essence.

Neil Janes is executive director of the Lyons Learning Project and a rabbi at West London Synagogue

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