Lighting the Hanukkah Candles 
It is World Human Rights Day and I am at a loss for words. It is 2014 and still there are so many people who do not the basic human rights they need. It breaks my heart. As a Jew, I feel the call for justice and repairing the world so strongly that it breaks my heart when I hear stories of people who do not have access to basic things like clean water, a safe place to sleep and the freedom to live their lives. I want to do more, I want to speak up but I do not always know how.

I am angry. I am angry when justice is denied. I am angry that there are people whose voice will never be heard. I am angry that we silence the voices we need to hear because they can make us uncomfortable. It is hard not to be angry. It is hard not go out there in the streets and raise my voice in pain. I want to do more, sometimes I just feel like I do not even know where to begin.
I want justice, so this year I have chosen to be more vocal about the things that matter to me. I do not want to be afraid of what others say in my pursuit of justice. So often, the fear of what others would say holds me back from speaking what I believe needs to be said.

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That cannot happen any more. I won't let others silence my voice. That started this year when I decided to be vocal about being raped. It's so difficult to talk about because there is always this fear that the moment I share my story, the person I tell will blame me. It happens so much to me and to others. Usually the first questions relate to what you were doing to put yourself in that situation or what were you wearing or why weren't you more careful. It is terrible and wrong that this happens. It is wrong that there is a justice system in place here in America were so few rape or sexual assault cases end in a verdict. It is frustrating that women are told to be careful walking late at night, to watch what they wear or how they behave because it might tempt others. This is something I feel so passionate about. I want justice for those who have had none. So this year, I am making it a commitment to be more vocal, to put actions to my prayers. I do not want my words of shalom to be in vain, so I am researching organizations to give to, places to volunteer.


I care a lot about those who struggle with mental illness, as some of my earlier postings have mentioned. The stigma that surrounds those with mental health issues makes me feel very frustrated. At some point in many people's lives, they will experience symptoms of a mental illness. Instead of surrounding those with mental health illnesses with light and love, many have to hide their struggles out of shame or so that they do not appear to be weak. Sometimes, I too bite my tongue because I am afraid of being judged. Once you have the label of having a mental illness, people can treat you differently. Suddenly when you have a bad day or when something goes wrong, people see your circumstances and do not take it at face value. They look for hints of anything out of the ordinary. Your words are parsed and your reactions measured. It is difficult also because many with mental illnesses are disabled to some extent by their illness. When you have a mental illness, it is not something that you can compartmentalize to separate it from the rest of your life. Every waking moment can be affected by what is going on internally. Many do not have access to the resources they need in order to treat their illness or cope with it. Applying for any kind of assistance can be a year long journey with many setbacks. While waiting for help, they can literally be living moment to moment. Some do not have the transportation necessary to reach centers that can help them. Often help requires home address, patience and money. 

I find it frustrating that there are so many people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. So many hungry people live here in the US, Israel and in the world. In a world we people throw away so much food, it is sad that there are some who barely get to eat a meal every few days. When you are weighed down by life, working multiple jobs trying to provide for a family and keep shelter, having an empty stomach can be so distracting and painful. Applying for things like food stamps from the government in order to eat can be a long process and when you do get this help, many more obstacles can happen. Transportation to and from stores can be a hassle when you are using the bus or walking. Finding stores around you the accept food stamps can be a challenge. Then there is the added pain of the looks you get when using food stamps. People can be very judgmental about your circumstances.

During this Hanukkah, this season of light and miracles, I look for light and miracles. I look for opportunities to share light in the world. I often discount myself from the beginning because I most days I feel like I barely make it. I feel like my voice is drowned out by my circumstances, that my light is hidden beneath the weight of my struggles. This season, I want to renew my attempts to bring light and share it. These are just a few rights that many people do not have. Many are judged on the streets by their race, their social status or their sexuality. I want more this Hanukkah season. I want light not gifts. I want my Jewish community and friends to gather around those who do not have voices or those who need light and see my community light candles in their hearts. I want to pray for miracles and then work towards those very miracles I seek. I may not be able to do much, but I will do everything that I can. I want to light the light of humanity, I want to give the gift of light and hope and freedom this holiday. I will not stand by and watch as others fight for survival, I want to join hands with those around me to bring good.
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