Explanation of Hanukkah
I am writing concerning Barbara Christian’s column, “Some holiday lights may have to wait.”
Despite what Ms. Christian may have heard, Hanukkah has nothing to do with super-heroes, and probably has nothing to do with a miraculous jar of oil. It has to do with ordinary people who organized themselves and defended their religion and their homeland against one of the most powerful armies in the world.
The Seleucid Empire, part of what remained after the sudden and unexpected death of Alexander the Great, attacked the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt (another remainder from Alexander’s empire). They were soundly defeated, but in retreat they decided to impose their religion on the people of Judea, which sat between the Seleucid territory (the north-eastern Mediterranean) and Egypt. They installed a statue and an altar to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed the practice of Judaism. The Judean people revolted in protest. Led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, they successfully formed an army, drove the Seleucids out of Judea and restored traditional Jewish worship at the Temple. They established an independent state in Judea that lasted several hundred years. (As a ruling clan, the Maccabees are referred to as the Hasmonean dynasty.)
Hanukkah was a popular celebration that the people of Judea had shown that might didn’t make right, that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, a just cause could be victorious. Some historians have described the Maccabees’ fight as the first known war for religious freedom. The holiday is celebrated for eight days because it was modeled on Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles that Jews celebrate two weeks after the Jewish new year. The people knew they had participated in a miraculous victory that was possible despite their small numbers and poor weaponry and skills because they believed their cause was just and they had the support of God.
As all political dynasties do, the Hasmoneans became corrupt. Hundreds of years after the fact, the rabbis – who were ashamed of a holiday that celebrated a corrupt dynasty – made up a story about a jar of oil that lasted eight days. (Although several contemporary or near-contemporary written accounts of the war have survived, the first account of the miraculous oil was written 500 or 600 years after the fact.) During the last 125 or 150 years, especially in the United States, Hanukkah has come to be regarded as a Jewish counterpart to Christmas, often by Jewish parents who had to explain to their children why they wouldn’t be getting Christmas gifts like their friends. But it has never been about super-heroes, unless you consider ordinary people who organize to defend their religion and their country to be super-heroes.
Moving Solon forward
The virus now among us has created havoc in the finances of many communities, Solon’s included.
Finance Director Matt Rubino has indicated that this year’s deficit is manageable, assuming that income returns to normal next year. Yet, the mayor has not addressed staff issues, and continues to engage in costly projects previously affordable. Despite a hiring freeze he has promoted employees, ignoring financial ramifications.
It is clear that work patterns are permanently altered by this pandemic. We are also faced with a number of external issues making Solon’s future dependence on its business tax revenue questionable.
Leaders must react quickly to changes and address the needs of the overall community. Loyalty to employees is admirable, but fealty to those who elected him is primary. Positions that were desirable under prior conditions are now luxuries. That needs to be addressed now.
Solon’s enticement for new residents is its educational excellence and that shouldn’t change, despite the loss of former Superintendent Joseph Regano, who passed away this year. Surrounding communities have followed our strategies and are improving, without the added burden of Cuyahoga County’s tax structure.
While Mayor Eward H. Kraus has trumpeted acceptance of development as a priority, developers, realtors and business owners are cold-eyed about actions versus rhetoric. His refusal to make staff changes and his misguided freeze on development in Uptown Solon give clear indication that Solon hasn’t changed in its approach to development or a shared community vision.
The Joint Economic Development District recently announced between Aurora and Bainbridge along with neighboring Pinecrest shopping center in Orange Village diminishes the likelihood of significant retail development in Solon’s constrained environment. The city needs a vision that changes perceptions and creates enthusiasm. Our business and civic leaders are ready to take action, but they are looking for leadership. Developers have stated clearly that they are waiting for the city to show leadership. Mayor Kraus himself has admitted vision is not his thing, but he has also disdained the thoughtful clarity of various options for the city that have been presented to him that would change Solon’s image.
Apartments for mythical “young professionals” are not the answer. The solution is a comprehensive plan for the entire central retail district, not 5 acres on Aurora Road. The mayor previously promised “a microbrewery, apartments and restaurants” and we got Aldi and Hobby Lobby in a partially refaced 1970s strip center. This isn’t leadership. A leader delivers promised results, and the mayor has failed with his empty promises for redevelopment.
We must create a downtown environment that capitalizes on what the city has, which includes developing the trailhead behind city hall along with a true amphitheater and walkable area for gathering and local commerce that uniquely identifies us.
Horace once advised us that “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” The talents are there in our community, and under these adverse circumstances we have an opportunity to show leadership and a way forward. We must act with alacrity and determination now, as otherwise the future is not with Solon.
Lighting came with teamwork
This has been a wild year, and the Lighting of the Greens in Chagrin Falls turned out to be no different. The week before the Lighting of the Greens ceremony, the State of Ohio updated restrictions on gatherings, throwing the Village of Chagrin Falls and Jaycees one more curveball. We’re getting used to it. We worked closely with Chargrin Falls Mayor William Tomko and the merchant’s association to bring the event to residents’ homes via live stream, and we couldn’t have done it alone. Our longtime friends and partners at Buford T. Hedgehog Productions and Drone Ohio scrambled to bring additional video cameras instead of the usual sound system. Since the residents couldn’t visit Santa in person, we brought Santa to the residents in a first-ever Santa parade. The response was terrific. There were families all along the parade route waiting to get a glimpse of Santa being escorted by the North Pole Fire Department. Not only did we bring this event to numerous current residents, but there was an unexpected silver lining. We were able to make it a virtual homecoming to many former residents who moved away. The challenge was daunting, but everyone came together, and the result was a fantastic event.
We can’t thank village residents and businesses enough for their patience and, most importantly, their support. The Jaycees cover the cost of decorating the village every year thanks to you. The costs go well above five figures to pay for 80+ trees and over 7,500 feet of fresh garland. Not to mention the outsourced cutting and placing of the triangle Christmas Tree by Vancuren Tree Services semi-truck and crane. We provide hundreds of hours of labor, but it’s all enabled by you. You support the Santa boot drive during the lighting set-up. You make the generous donations that allow us to make the Village shine every year. We are so grateful for the residents of the Chagrin Valley.
On behalf of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees, thank you for helping us transform our village into a magical holiday wonderland. We wish you and your families a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.
It’s not too late to make a donation this year. Checks can be sent to The Chagrin Valley Jaycees at P.O. Box 522, Chagrin Falls, OH 44022, or there’s a donation form on our website at CVJC.org.
Chagrin Valley Jaycees