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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776
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Hellenism is Alive and Well in America

The modern day Hellenists are the Jews of the Diaspora who have the ability to move to Israel, but prefer to identify with a foreign country and foreign culture.


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Sorry to spoil your Chanukah. While many people consider the leftists in Israel the Hellenists of today, the term more fittingly describes the Jews of the Diaspora who have the ability to move to Israel, but prefer to identify with the foreign country and foreign culture where they live.

This is exactly what a Hellenist is – as Webster’s Dictionary states: “A person living in Hellenist times who was Greek in language, outlook, and way of life, but was not Greek in ancestry, like a Hellenist Jew.”

This description fits the American Jew, or English Jew, or Australian Jew of today. They prefer a foreign language over Hebrew; they prefer to live in a foreign land; and they chase after foreign cultures, outlooks, and ways of living, to be just like the Americans, loving baseball, the movies, the New York Times, addicting to American TV shows, fashions, cars, Presidents, and American ambitions, just like the Hellenists did in the time of the Greeks, abandoning their holy identity as Bnei Yisrael, their own Hebrew language, their beards and Hebrew garb, to become clean shaven, tunic-wearing copies of the Greeks, going to their bawdy theaters, concerts, brothels and pubs, rushing to their sporting events held in the nude, and even extending their foreskins to hide the holy mark of their circumcisions so they would look like everyone else at the baths.

Ask any Israeli leftist what his identity is, and he will answer, an Israeli, or a Jew. Ask your average American Jew what his identity is, and he will answer, an American. This is true Hellenism. Today it’s called Americanism, that’s all.

Even the Chanukah dreidel makes this distinction clear. In the Diaspora, a kid spinning the dreidel understands that “A great miracle happened THERE.” In Israel. Not in Paris, Melbourne, or New York. He instinctively realizes that the real Jewish place is Israel. That’s where Jewish history happened, and that’s where it is unfolding today. The Jewish child naturally understands that Israel is his true home, until his parents and Hebrew school teachers and rabbis and Federations brainwash him into becoming a Hellenist like they are.

Chanukah and Purim are both holidays established by the Sages, but we only recite the joyous Hallel prayer on Chanukah. Why? Because, even though the Jews were saved on Purim, it was only a partial salvation since they were still living under the Persians in a foreign land. At the end of the dramatic victory, Ester was still living in the palace with Achashverus, the goy.

In contrast, the salvation of Chanukah and its joy were complete, for the victory led to renewed Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel and the eradication of Hellenism. Our true joy can only come when we are in the Land of Israel being our true selves, as we say in the Psalm we recite on Shabbat before Birkat HaMazone, the Grace after Meals: “When the Lord brought back the exiles to Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with joyous song.” In contrast, the Sages decreed that we should recite a different Psalm during the week after eating (not that anyone bothers or wants to remember): “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

There is no true Jewish happiness in Brooklyn or Beverly Hills. Thus, the Sages established that it be written on all Diaspora dreidels: “A great miracle happened THERE,” so that every child would know (before he was brainwashed) that true Jewish happiness, heroism, and life happens THERE, in the Land of Israel, not in foreign lands among the Greeks and their modern-day counterparts, who, instead of wearing sandals and tunics, wear Florsheims, designer sport jackets, and ties.

Happy Chanukah!

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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