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Redefining Leadership: What if Judah Maccabee had been disabled?

The Hanukkah menorah

The story of Hanukkah is one of resilience, faith, and triumph against all odds. Traditionally, we know Judah Maccabee as a valiant warrior leading the Jewish rebellion against the oppressive Antiochus and the Seleucid Empire. But what if we reimagine this historical figure with a disability? Exploring the hypothetical scenario of a disabled Judah Maccabee not only challenges our perceptions of strength but also emphasizes the universal truth that courage and determination can shine through in myriad ways.

In this alternative narrative, imagine Judah Maccabee as a leader who, despite facing physical challenges, becomes the symbol of resolute determination. Perhaps he encounters an injury during the initial battles, leading to a disability that would typically be considered an impediment on the battlefield.

A disabled Judah Maccabee would have to navigate a world that presented physical barriers and that underestimated him. His journey would involve not only fighting against external enemies but also challenging preconceived notions within his own community. Instead of relying solely on physical strength, he would become a strategic thinker, emphasizing collaboration and ingenuity to overcome obstacles.

A disabled Judah Maccabee could redefine leadership, emphasizing the strength that comes from diverse perspectives and abilities. His story would emphasize that leadership is not confined to physical might alone but encompasses qualities such as resilience, empathy, and the ability to unite a community around a shared vision.

The hypothetical scenario of a disabled Judah Maccabee invites us to consider how the rebellion itself might have evolved. Perhaps accommodations would be made within the rebel forces to ensure accessibility and inclusion. The narrative would emphasize the importance of recognizing and leveraging the unique strengths that individuals with disabilities bring to the table.

The central theme of Hanukkah revolves around the miracle of light, symbolized by the menorah. In this reimagined tale, the light takes on an even deeper meaning. Judah Maccabee, facing both external enemies and societal prejudice, becomes a beacon of light himself. His resilience and leadership would inspire others to recognize the strength within themselves and each other.

While this alternative narrative is purely speculative, it urges us to reflect on our own perceptions of strength and leadership. In reality, individuals with disabilities have been and continue to be leaders in various fields, proving that true strength comes in many forms.

As we celebrate Hanukkah, let us carry the spirit of inclusivity and redefine our understanding of strength. In the hypothetical world where Judah Maccabee is disabled, we can find a powerful lesson – that our disabilities need not limit us, and the light within can shine brightest in unexpected ways.

By Michelle Friedman

*Reprinted from the Jewish Disability Inclusion newsletter

Michelle Friedman is the board chair of Keshet in Chicago, a member of Disability Lead and has been a disability advocate for 40 years. She has written two children’s books and is a frequent speaker for elementary and high school-age students.

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