Each holiday CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, sends out a piece that gets to the heart of the holiday, usually from a different perspective than we might be thinking about. This Chanukah, the piece started like this: “What do Judah Maccabee, Igor Olshansky, and You all have in common? In a word — HEROISM!” The story of Judah Maccabee is familiar to us all — we remember that he is a hero because he lived his values, not because he was a great warrior. Today our society often substitutes celebrity for heroism. Igor Olshansky, the 6-foot-6-inch, 315-lb. Dallas Cowboys defensive end with Stars of David tattooed on his shoulders, is a new hero. He came from the Ukraine in 1989 and is proud of his Jewishness, which makes him a hero living his values.
We can all be heroes if we live by our values and share them with others. “Living values out loud” is important because others will learn from our example to stand up and be counted. Today many people are talking about bullies. Often the hardest part is being the bystander: Should I stand up when my friend is being bullied? What if the bully comes after me? What can I do? Being a hero doesn’t mean to put oneself in danger’s way but there are many things we can do. The Torah says: Do not stand idly by! That means we must do something. Think about it and talk about it:
* What values do you hold that could be lived more fully and inspire those around you?
* When have you done something heroic? (It doesn’t have to be big.)
* Who are the heroes in your life that inspire you?
As we come to the end of the Chanukah season, make a commitment to being a hero, to standing up for your values, to making a difference in the lives of those around you — and by doing so, you will make a difference in your own life.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.