Hanukkah: The Jewish Coming Out Holiday

Still considering how you’re going to celebrate Hanukkah this year? Does your new diet force you to look beyond latkes (fried potato pancakes) and other oil-saturated delicacies?

Well, Jay Michaelson, editor of Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, suggests another way to enjoy the 8-Day celebration of Hanukkah: “Come out!”

Writing in The Forward, Michaelson reflects on his own personal struggle coming out as a gay and observant Jew, and he also understands that there are many others on the periphery whose differences are not celebrated but merely tolerated. The holiday season makes this ever more apparent; with Christmas front and center, some in the Jewish community might be inclined to just, “put on the dumb red hat and wait until it’s over.” Michaelson writes:

To celebrate Hanukkah today is thus a form of coming out: admitting difference, recognizing that one is not the same as everyone else and, hopefully, celebrating the unique gifts that being different offers.

Michaelson draws the connection between Jews who defied Hellenism by not conforming (read: assimilating) and the modern-day imperative to embrace difference, be true to one’s self and “come out.”

Stop repressing and stop equivocating. Whatever closet you’re hiding in, whether it’s sexual, religious, professional, cultural, or just plain dull and repressive, light the Hanukkah candles (or don’t!), celebrate nonconformity — and, for God’s sake and yours, come out, please, wherever you are.

For some of us this might mean more publicly celebrating Hanukkah—putting that electric menorah in the window and inviting friends (non-Jewish and Jewish) to a feast of latkes—or embracing our personal differences within the Jewish community and the world at-large.

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