Rabbinic Commentary

Is it Safe to Display a Menorah this Year?

Is it safe to put your chanukah menorah (chanukiah) in the window this year?
As Chanukah begins this evening, and Jews around the world prepare to add light to their homes during a time of darkness, it is hard to not consider what it means to publicize the holiday by placing our chanukah menorah in the window, or in any other way.  
There is a law that states that the menorah should be placed in the window in order to proudly declare to the public that though the Jews once faced a time of discrimination and persecution, we have overcome those dark times and are still definitively here to proudly shine our light.  The text adds a point that though this is the law in standard times, it is permitted to light the chanukiah away from the window during a “time of danger.” 
It is impossible not to consider whether we are living in such a time… is this a time of danger for Jews? Of course this question expands far beyond the placement of the chanukiah.  For some, it may not even be practical to light your chanukiah in the window and there may not be anyone to actually see it…  the point of the text is to consider the extent to which we feel comfortable sharing our Jewish identity in public spaces.
It is quite possible, and quite likely, that the answer isn’t so clear cut.  It may feel totally safe to put your menorah in the window but not to wear a kippah, or Jewish Jewelry, in certain places. We may feel different at work than we do in the grocery store, in an uber car, out to eat, or in one college class but not another.  
The truth is that some settings are more dangerous than others, and also our perception matters. The reason the text is so vague is that we are the only ones who can determine when and where we do or do not feel safe.  It is not up to any rabbinic authority to tell someone else what to feel. The job of Jewish communal leaders is to put in place the best measures and resources to create the most secure environments possible so that Jews feel safe, supported, and comfortable proudly displaying who they are.
My prayer for this Chanukah is that all Jews have at least a few spaces in their life where they can proudly expose their Jewish identity without fear and that they lean into those spaces and shine their beautiful light into the world for all to see.  
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