Jewish communities all over the world are in grave danger of decline and even of disappearance, not because of persecution, but because of assimilation and intermarriage. Most of the children of intermarried couples are lost to Judaism. This is of prime concern of Jewish political and communal leaders, as well as to Rabbinical and intellectual leadership.
Living in Israel is no guaranty against these dangers. At the time of the return from Babylon, Ezra and Nehemiah fought against intermarriage a very long and bitter fight. Years later, when ארץ ישראל- the Land of Israel, was under the rule of the Greeks, the danger of assimilation threatened our existence as a people, again.
As Rav Yitzhak Hutner in his monumental work "פחד יצחק" remarks: In the history of the enslavement of the people Israel by the nations, we find the first time the appearance of Hellenizers under the Greek rule.
בגלות בבל אין לנו מתבבלים ולא בגלות אשור מתאשרים, ורק בגלות יון יש לנו עסק גם עם יונים וגם עם מתיונים"
(חנכה מאמר ו')
Translation will not do justice to this passage: In the exile to Babylon we had no Jewish imitations of Babylonians, and in the Assyrian exile we had not Jewish imitations of Assyrians, only in the Greek exile do we have to deal with Greeks and with Hellenizers (the Jews who assimilated to the Greek, Hellenic culture).
It is strange to call the rule of Greece an exile גלות יון . As Rav Hutner points out, the people remained in their land and even Bet Hamikdash was standing in Jerusalem. The Greeks did not destroy the Temple. They desecrated it, they did not pour out the pure oil, they defiled it. The Greeks did not object to the existence of the population of Israel, they objected to the separation and the distinction between Israel and the nations. They wanted to eliminate and erase the boundaries between the sacred and the profane, between the pure and the impure.
The way to do this was the decree against the keeping of commandments of the Torah in general, but these which were the most distinguishing ones like the study of Torah and Brith Mila in particular.
One of the most painful and cruel edicts was the one giving the right to the Greek governors to violate the Jewish brides on their wedding night.
As Rav Hutner explains, this was not so much to satisfy the lust of the governors, but to disturb the natural perpetuation of a distinct Jewish people, the people who has preserved its unique existence through the connection between the generations.
May we all take to heart the lesson of Chanukah. The Greeks managed to desecrate the Temple and persecute the Torah observant population only with the cooperation of the assimilationist, Hellenizing Jews.
We have to do our best to make the light of the Chanukah candles ignite a renewed interest in a Torah true life amongst all Jews.
חג אורים שמח