Over 2,100 years ago, King Antiochus promulgated laws that made Jewish ritual and worship illegal. He did it because he could. He was the king of the Seleucid Empire, and he had the power. He saw any difference in worship from his own as a threat, and wanted to force one single way of worshiping throughout his Syrian Greek empire.

The Maccabees fought back because if they wanted to worship as themselves, they had to. Their victory inaugurated the first Hanukkah, the first re-dedication of their worship space as free people.

This year, as I think about the miracles of Hanukkah and the dedication of a space for prayer, I want to give thanks for our Island community, which celebrates and makes space for a diversity of worship not because we have to, but because we want to.

This past Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, our Jewish community didn’t know how we would be able to worship safely during a pandemic. Many synagogues were not able to gather as a whole community in their own spaces. Yet for us, these High Holidays became among the most moving and memorable because the Camp Meeting Association invited us to worship at the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, itself the site of fervent worship from the 1830s on, became a holy space for our Jewish community, as well as other religious communities over the pandemic. The beautiful space, the history, and most of all the generosity and graciousness of the Camp Meeting Association made manifest the biblical quote from Genesis hanging on the Tabernacle rafters: “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.”

Hanukkah means “dedication,” and refers to the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees. The Temple stood for another 200 years, until another empire, the Roman empire, showed its might, because it could. Perhaps a lesson of Hanukkah is that it is up to all of us to rededicate sacred space by opening up our spaces to become shared ones. Holiness comes from the simple and shared spaces, and the Island’s dedication to being a place where all religious communities are respected is indeed something to celebrate. As Isaiah preached: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all people.”

On Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m., the Hebrew Center will return to the Tabernacle to celebrate Hanukkah there for the first time, and we invite everyone to join us. It may be a cold night, but we will be warmed by the good will and kindness modeled by the Camp Meeting Association and so central to our Island community.

On Hanukkah we celebrate the miracle of light. Sometimes the light that burns brightest is the light we create through kindness for each other. May the lights of all our traditions help us to rededicate ourselves toward the openness, compassion and justice that Isaiah preached.

May we enjoy this season of celebration together in friendship and peace.

Rabbi Caryn Broitman lives in West Tisbury and is rabbi for the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.