Hanukkah: A Festival of Unique Importance

December 22, 2011 by Contributor · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Culture, Holidays 

            Having grown up in a largely Jewish New York neighborhood, I, like most Jews, have always been in on the big secret: Hanukkah is not a holiday. It’s a festival. 

            Hanukkah is a Hebrew word derived from the root חנך, meaning “to dedicate.”   The festival itself commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the invading Roman army in the second century BCE.  While a prolific event in Jewish history, it took place over a thousand years after the majority of events documented in the Old Testament and, historically, does not approach the significance of such occurrences as the Creation or escape from slavery by Pharaoh.

            Some Jews and others cynically associate Hanukkah’s ascendance from minor annual occurrence into the pantheon of American religious holidays with commercialism.  It’s sometimes asserted that the holiday has been over-emphasized by retailers to encourage gift-giving, and parents who didn’t want their children to feel left out of the fun at Christmas time.  Personally, I disagree.

             Growing up, my father often shared stories of my grandfather sending letters to New York department stores in the 1950’s requesting that a menorah be displayed beside the Christmas trees.  Grandpa Paul had escaped his village before its destruction in World War II.  He wasn’t writing because he needed an extra push to spend money on stores’ products.  He was embracing an opportunity he’d never had in the country where he was raised: to proudly assert his identity and membership in a new society, and to be embraced in turn.

            As a relatively secular Jew who identifies himself first and foremost as an American, I embrace Hanukkah as a festival of unique importance in the Hebrew calendar.  It’s a celebration of a great Jewish triumph over tyranny.  It’s a symbol of open and heartfelt acknowledgement of America’s Jewish community by the greater society.  And, most of all, it’s a time for Jews to gather with their families and friends in celebration.

This blog post was written by ABLE Innovation’s Project Manager, Matt Jacobs.

Military Speak

September 6, 2011 by Contributor · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business, Language 

The military, like any specialized profession, has its own specific jargon and terminology.  One of the most unique parts of military-specific language is the use of acronyms and abbreviations.  To an outsider the military abbreviations can sound like a foreign language, but to those who understand it, it is an efficient way to communicate the important business of national security.

Some examples of acronym usage are commonly known phrases such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or DOD (Department of Defense).  There are some acronyms commonly used in the military and civilian world that most people do not even know the real meaning of, such as RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging) and SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging).  Others actually contain words in the abbreviation and are therefore fairly easy to figure out.  Examples of this type include OPEVAL (Operational Evaluation) and COMNAVSURFLANT (Commander Naval Surface Forces Atlantic).  Other abbreviations actually contain other acronyms within them such as GSA (GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) Support Assignment).

All of these different acronyms can lead to a good deal of confusion and it frequently happens that the more junior personnel in meetings may not fully understand everything that the more senior personnel are discussing. This can be frustrating and there are actually quite a few websites solely dedicated to military acronyms and abbreviations.  These websites contain such a large number of entries that it would be easy to consider military acronyms to be another language.

Unlike learning a foreign language, there are not classes or CDs that can teach the language of the military.  But just like a foreign language, immersion in the military way of communicating is typically the true way to learn it.  However, once some of it is learned, it becomes easier to figure out other abbreviations based on the context clues of how they are used. 

While the military system of abbreviations is not perfect, it has proven itself throughout history to be effective.  Even if it can be difficult to learn or understand initially it makes military communications more efficient and thereby allows the military to better carry out its mission of protecting the country.

This blog was written by an Lieutenant in the US Navy.

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