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Evan Traylor standing at a podium addressing the URJ Biennial

Editor's note: The text that follows was presented before a live audience at the 2019 Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial on Friday, Dec. 13, during Shabbat services.

Every time I sing the Jewish people’s powerful prayer for peace, I am overwhelmed with hope – hope for a better world for all people.

You know, there was another man from Chicago who spoke of the “audacity of hope” – about seeing beyond the world as it is now and seeing the world as it should be. He knew, as we all know, that sometimes hope can be too hard to find...

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Snow covered road surrounded by trees -- and white lights in the foreground

Last year, my daughter, who was 3 1/2 at the time, was acutely aware that her friends and their families would be celebrating Christmas and that we would not.

Lights in the neighborhood, the “holiday” show at her (secular) early childhood education center (during which she sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”), and the display of sparkly snowflakes and polar bears at the mall all were clues that something exciting was happening. Non-stop Christmas music and chatter about Santa and presents confirmed her suspicion that it was going to be great – and that she wasn’t going to be...

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Young man kindling candles in a hanukkiyah

If you grew up in a Jewish home celebrating Jewish holidays, you probably have many sweet memories of your family’s Hanukkah celebrations.

Along with latkes and dreidel games, you may recall the lessons associated with the holiday. Maybe you remember the story of the light, and how a small amount of oil miraculously...

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Man facing away from the camera wearing a kippah and prayer shawl

“Jersey City, Pittsburgh, Poway, Crown Heights… the names of the places come tripping off of our tongues with an easy familiarity. They are places, of course, where Jews have been subjected to murderous attacks.”

Thus Deborah Lipstadt, author of Antisemitism: Here and Now, began her address to the 5,000 Jews gathered at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Chicago.

Today, Jews around the world are frightened and shell-shocked at the seemingly sudden reemergence of antisemitism (...

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A child and an adult watching the Hanukkah lights

The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light – in a little cruse – lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: let that nourish my flickering spirit. – Charles Reznikoff, American poet (1894-1976), in “Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays”

How do you get into the spirit of Hanukkah?

Although Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday, retailers are shoring up their blue and white merchandise and creating ever-larger displays alongside their green...

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