30 Years Later, Jews Celebrate John Lennon on Hanukkah
“You came to me one summer night and from your beam you made my dream,” sang the Beatles on their 1964 cover of “Mr. Moonlight.” Yes, the entire song was penned as a love letter. But that doesn’t mean those particular words can’t be applied during Hanukkah, when we celebrate and remember the miracle that occurred at the Holy Temple thousands of years ago.
Coincidentally, this year’s Festival of Lights occurs during the commemoration of an event involving the lead singer of that “Mr. Moonlight” cover, the one and only John Lennon. Thirty years ago tomorrow, the rock legend was gunned down outside of his apartment in New York City.
While it seems silly to compare the late Beatle to Hanukkah — particularly because he was not Jewish — one synagogue in Massachusetts has nevertheless decided to spend the eighth night of the holiday paying tribute to one of the world’s most influential musicians.
“We thought that perhaps with the anniversary of John Lennon’s death … we might attract people from outside of the synagogue to come in,” Barbara Friedman, who helped organize the Tribute to John Lennon Concert at Congregation Agudat Achim, said in an interview with the Forward. “[Lennon] was a man for his time, but he was also a man ahead of his time. He created songs that have a lasting value.”
While few would think of a synagogue as a location to pay tribute for a non-Jewish singer, Friedman pointed out that many of the themes in Lennon’s songs deal with Jewish ideals and beliefs.
“[The event] has, of course, no connection to Hanukkah or being Jewish other than I think lots of John Lennon’s songs have a universal theme of peace [and] love… Every Shabbat we say the prayer for peace [Oseh Shalom].”
The fundraiser will feature a Beatles cover band, Beatles For Sale. Fittingly, Friedman hopes to hear “Come Together” and “Give Peace a Chance,” two songs that fit in perfectly with the spirit of the holiday.
"Donniel Hartman said the miracle of Hanukkah is not just that the oil lasted 8 days; it’s actually that it lasted more than one. Would we have said, 'Dayenu,' (to mix metaphors,) if it had lasted two days? Would we have had a holiday? Probably, yes. The idea that we as a Jewish community, even in our darkest moments, hold out the hope that a candle is going to keep burning, I find very powerful."— Rabbi Rachel Ain
"“We would all argue vehemently and work tireless against assimilation. But the Hellenists and we Reform Jews didn’t assimilate. We acculturate, and by doing so, provide a portal for continuity unavailable to those who continue a quasi-ghettoized existence with all the ramifications thereof, good and bad. The irony, rarely mentioned by those who use the Hanukah story to justify Orthodoxy, is that the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) lasted a century and a half before they disappeared, having taken on Greek names as High Priests and Kings. And Rabbinic Judaism, the first ‘reform’ movement, birthed all of us.”"— Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein