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Maccabees were the true heroes

December 28, 2018

To the editor:

David Rafferty’s depiction of the struggle of Hanukkah (Dec. 23 “Finding Christmas with Hanukkah”) is not accurate. He mischaracterizes the Greek threat and the cultural war. The conflict was not between a healthy encounter with Greek culture or isolationism. In truth, the Greek were an ancient version of ISIS and posed an existential threat to Jewish nation.

If Jews studied Torah, they would be killed. If Jews observed the Sabbath, they would be killed. If Jews attended synagogue, they would be killed. The Maccabees were forward thinking in risking their lives by battling the Greeks for the future of Judaism. The Hellenists Jews were not advocating a liberal, democratic world view but an abandonment of Judaism and total assimilation.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Maccabees who were the true heroes. They fought for religious freedom. They embody a way of life for all of us of being engaged with the modern world while remaining anchored in the principles and practice of our faiths.

Rabbi Daniel Cohen is senior rabbi of Congregation Agudath Shalom in Stamford.

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