Channukah, that great festival of lights where small flickering flames burn in many Jewish household windows and multi story candelabras adorn malls, public transportation terminals and city halls across the globe. Chanukkah is the most publicized Jewish holiday, and possibly one of the better known holidays in general.
Both Jewish and non-Jewish leaders, politicians and civic dignitaries participate in candle lighting ceremonies, celebrating the eternal festival of freedom and the message that it bears. In America Channukah has deeply permeated secular culture and media references are rampant.
This popular festival bears a number of distinct lessons and messages of contemporary significance. But due to the fact that publicizing the miracle that took place is an essential part of celebrating and commemorating Channukah, it may be said that it is the Jewish festival of PR.
The ingenuity of the Rabbis that established the lighting of the Menorah to capture the attention of the masses and propagate the message of Channukah, should be the envy of many a publicist. Consider an era where none of the mediums of modern communication existed, no TV producer to pitch the idea to, and no newspaper editor looking for a front page story.
And yet over 2000 years later the story is still generating buzz, when seeing those small flames flickering in a neighbor’s window or a towering menorah outside the Whitehouse one is prompted to consider their historical relevance and will soon enough discover the details of yet another story of Jewish resilience and of a miraculous delivery from the hands of tyranny.
Channukah may just be the greatest PR coup of all time.
With so many modern platforms and avenues to promote a product or cause, perhaps we should take a lesson in PR and publicity from the sages of ancient Judea.
Today we are steeped in the limelight culture, where celebrity and fame are worshipped and people often seek attention and recognition at any cost, like Richard and Mayumi Heene, the parents of the “balloon boy” who captured headlines in October, or Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who brazened their way into President Obama’s first state dinner, in November.
American historian Daniel Boorstin observed “The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark, the hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.”
It is not about image, trademark or celebrity; the focus must be on the cause and message that lies behind, or the hero that represents it. The Sages could have chosen other symbols or personalities to represent Chanukkah but they chose the lighting of the Menorah as the symbolic act of remembrance because it represents more than just a military victory, it represents an ideology that is greater than the individual players, the triumph of light over darkness.
An individual or institution that is seeking to expand their circle of influence by raising their profile or visibility should keep in mind that Immortal timeless buzz is created by public imagery that represents a cause, mission or idea.
Otherwise, as Boorstin concluded “The very agency which first makes the celebrity in the long run inevitably destroys him. He will be destroyed, as he was made, by publicity. The newspapers make him, and they unmake him.”
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com