We’ve Come to Banish the Darkness

Schusterman Chanukah 2015By No’a Gorlin

No one will tell you that life in Israel is easy. I have called Israel my home for four decades and been a mother for two of them, and the feeling of fear that washes over me when I hear of yet another knife or car attack in my beloved country shocks my system anew each time.

And yet, I love where I live; I wouldn’t be in Israel – in Jerusalem – if this were not the case. While times are more challenging than usual, my city is active with events and happenings that can attest to its relentless vitality: the Jerusalem Parliament’s fascinating lecture series has continued without fail, with talks by Forbes editor Randall Lane and London Mayor Boris Johnson; and Jerusalem’s New Spirit organization brought executive directors of several government offices one evening last month for pop-up lectures in several bars at the Machane Yehuda market. Both events were widely attended by young people from Jerusalem and across the country. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg.

If I could describe it in one word, I would say that life in Israel is like a rollercoaster. The most poignant example of this came just a few weeks ago. One morning, I received an email from my daughter Ma’ayan’s school telling me that she and her two friends were going to be recognized at the Knesset for developing a grassroots organization that encourages people to do good deeds for others. It is called, “For Someone,” and though it started among her small group of friends, it quickly spread across the country. I was overjoyed by this news, and so proud that my daughter’s hard work and caring heart would be recognized on such a large scale. With this high profile attention, I had no doubt that her and her co-founders’ goal of spreading goodness in the world would be more achievable now than ever before.

Just a few hours later, my phone delivered news of another sort: another stabbing attack had occurred in Jerusalem. Needless to say, the cloud on which I had been floating earlier that day burst, and I was quickly brought down to the ground for a reality check. Where were Ma’ayan, her brother and her sisters? After a few moments of panic, all of my children were accounted for and the feeling of fear resumed its gnawing mode, taking its place on the back burner.

There is no doubt that we find ourselves in a difficult moment in history, and days like the one I experienced a few weeks ago – with its drastic ups and downs – certainly have the habit of upsetting one’s equilibrium. Still, as jarring as it can be to be pulled from a high to a low in the span of a few hours, I am eternally grateful for the moments of light in my life that have sustained me through moments of darkness. Once I knew that my family was safe, the news that more people in Israel would be inspired to do good thanks to Ma’ayan’s efforts helped me stay positive when I could easily have been consumed by the thought that my city was being ruined by terror.

Though the world and the Jewish people are facing challenging times, my daughter, her friends and their peers are doing their part to spread light. I think we should all take up the call and do the same.

In my role at ROI Community and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, I have the privilege to be part of a global team that empowers young Jewish change makers to improve the world in different ways. Every day, we make a bit of headway in supporting them in creating light where they see that darkness is encroaching.

One recent example of this is our #MakeItHappen: Chanukah campaign, which is helping 30 promising Jewish leaders around the world organize events that aim to share the light of Chanukah with their home communities, both Jewish and beyond. From a three-day festival of study, celebration and community-building among the Abayudaya Jews in Uganda; to a mural painting project at a children’s shelter in Mexico; to an open evening of light-themed lectures at a bar in Tel Aviv; the impact made by these individuals will be felt by over 2,000 people collectively. I am sure that the indirect ripple effect of their good deeds will touch even more.

And now, we must spread the light even further. While I believe we should leave the police forces and the politicians to deal with bringing terrorists to justice, it is up to each of us to create peaceful light where we can, no matter how small. Each act of kindness we undertake at home and in our communities brings us one step closer to building a global movement of individuals working collectively to make the whole world a better, brighter place.

I am calling it a “movement” because good deeds, like smiles, are contagious. When Ma’ayan and her friends approached a videographer to record a two-minute snapshot of their project for the Knesset, the videographer was so moved by their initiative that he took it on pro bono. Just as the single flame of the Shamash lights the Chanukiya’s eight other candles – slowly and steadily, night by night, without diminishing its own light – so, too, do our good deeds have the potential to inspire others to act in the spirit of kindness. In essence, each of us has the power to initiate a domino effect of goodness. If we all #BeTheLight, we will all be better for it.

No’a Gorlin is the Associate Executive Director of ROI Community, an international network of activists and change makers who are redefining Jewish engagement for a new generation of global citizens. ROI Community is an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

Join millions of people in spreading the light of Chanukah over social media by contributing to Schusterman’s #BeTheLight campaign. Upload photos of your Chanukah candles, celebrations or service projects with the #BeTheLight hashtag, and together we will be one step closer to banishing the darkness.