The legacy of Chanukah – faith, patriotism, defiance of extreme odds and tenacity in the battle of liberty against tyranny – has underlined the American spirit since the early Pilgrims, enhancing the unique foundation of the US-Israel covenant: shared values.
For instance, the statue of Judah the Maccabee, the hero of the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian-Seleucid Empire, is displayed at the West Point Military Academy, the most prestigious US military academy, founded in 1802. The statue of Judah the Maccabee, known for his principle-driven leadership and daring battle tactics, is displayed along with the statues of Joshua, David, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hector, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon – “the Nine Worthies.”
George Washington became acquainted with the spirit of the Maccabees, upon settling, in December (Chanukah) 1777, at his new headquarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, with ill-equipped, weary troops. Faced with a super-power, George III of Britain, Washington concluded that only a dramatic change could avoid a defeat. According to the diary entries of Louisa Hart, Washington told the Harts about a Jewish solider at Valley Forge who lit a Chanukah candle and explained its significance. Washington’s reaction was: “Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees’ success, though it is long past…It pleases me to think that miracles still happen.” Six months later, on June 19, 1778, the Continental Army implemented the battle tactics of Judah the Maccabee, leaving Valley Forge in pursuit of the British, who were moving towards New York. Although the war would linger for five more years, Washington won a decisive victory.