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Chanukah celebrates religious freedom and light over darkness

By Tara Vocino

On the third night of Chanukah this Tuesday, approximately 40 people from a variety of faith backgrounds come together for the Menorah Lighting in front of City Hall.

Chanukah is an eight-night long festival that lasts from Dec. 2 to 9 and celebrates victory over darkness and encourages us to do good by spreading light. On Tuesday, Sam Huberman, Mayor Brian Arrigo and Joe Cole lit the eight-candle menorah with one candle in the middle.

Congregation Tifereth Israel Rabbi Sruli Baron, who identifies as Jewish Orthodox, explained how Chanukah originated. The King of the Greeks, a Hellenic culture, sought to destroy the Jewish people through religious persecution, in which an undisclosed amount of Jewish people were killed in third-century B.C., according to Baron.

However, a priestly tribe, the Maccabees, were radicals and fought against the oppression. Ultimately, defeating the Greeks, the Maccabees celebrated religious freedom, according to Baron.

Mayor Arrigo opened the ceremony, referencing this poignant moment in time for the Jewish community in the months after Pittsburgh, where a gunman killed 11 worshippers in a Pennsylvania synagogue, and how the city of Revere stands by and supports its Jewish residents.

“Good evening – Happy Chanukah,” Arrigo addressed the crowd. “When we proudly participate in events like tonight’s, we stand together respecting and sharing the celebration of this nation’s splendid myriad of religious traditions. We are reminded of the precious value of community, tolerance and of faith.”

Mayor Arrigo said that while the Pittsburg incident was tragic, Revere celebrates brotherhood, community, and its country.

Temple B’Nai Israel Rabbi Reb Misha Clebaner, who identifies himself as Reformed Jewish, then made a joke about the freezing temperatures (approximately 30 degrees) and how it warmed his heart to see so many people come out and celebrate together in full show of support for the city’s Jewish residents. Clebaner said Revere’s only synagogue will be closing in June since most families relocated. Located at 1 Way Ave., the synagogue is 113 years old and nine years short of iconic Revere Beach.

Event organizer Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky, who identifies himself as Conservative Jewish, said Revere once had a strong Jewish community – Shirley Avenue had two synagogues, and there was another one at Beachmont, but they have since closed down.

Councillor-at-Large Daniel Rizzo said back in 2000, there was a sizable crowd at this ceremony, but it has since diminished, notably due to change in demographics. “Regardless of the turnout, it’s a tremendous tradition that the city participates in to celebrate with our Jewish friends and neighbors, as they embark on a wonderful holiday, enjoying the spirit of the season,” Rizzo said.

After the event, Clebaner commented on what Chanukah means to him. “It’s about maintaining a hope that we can bring more light into this world; both literally with the continued observance of lighting candles and also metaphorically with increased acts of loving-kindness,” Clebaner said.

Baron said, to him, Chanukah means finding light in life and spreading it to someone else. “Happy Chanukah, everyone,” Clebaner said. “May we all retain our hope for better days ahead and come together to celebrate each and every one of those days as an undivided global community.”

 

Tara Vocino may be reached at printjournalist1@gmail.com.

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