“What we’re doing here today is gathering to make a statement,” Rabbi tells crowd at Menorah Lighting ceremony
A crowd of close to 100 people gathered outside of Town Hall at noon on Monday (Dec. 19) to make a public statement against antisemitism while introducing a Menorah Lighting ceremony that town officials vow will become a regular occurrence in the future.
“It’s the first time in history that we’ve had a public Menorah Lighting in Saugus,” Rabbi Yossi Lipsker said in an interview after presiding over the ceremony.
Rabbi Lipsker, executive director of CHABAD of the North Shore, also presided over the September “No Place for Hate Rally For Pride & Solidarity” rally outside Town Hall, just days after an anti-Semitic banner displayed on a Route 1 overpass declared “JEWS DID 9/11,” prompting a public outcry.
Ninety-year-old Saugus resident Ruth Berg, one of the most visible local members of the Jewish faith, turned on the switch that illuminated the middle bulb of the nine-branched candelabrum set up on the lawn to celebrate the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
“Although we’ve lit the Menorah in Town Hall in years past, it was nothing like this year’s celebration,” Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano said in an interview later.
“Just hearing from Ruth Berg that it was the best day of her life made it all worthwhile. Rabbi Yossi Lipsker has become a friend of mine, and the Town and I think we’ve started a great new tradition here. I pride myself on doing great things for Saugus, and I have to say…this was right up there with some of my favorites,” Cogliano said.
Rabbi Lipsker played his guitar at the outset of the ceremony and during his remarks conveyed a positive message to the crowd. “I think we’ve come a long way since we gathered here last time,” the Rabbi said.
“We built some lovely bridges. We’ve gained some new friends. We’ve learned a little bit more about each other. We feel comfortable with one another,” he said.
“What we’re doing here today is gathering to make a statement; we can communicate with love, understanding, with compassion and tolerance, “he said.
At one point, the Rabbi asked the veterans attending the ceremony to come up and stand with him.
Saugus Police Chief Mike Ricciardelli, who spoke at the September rally, also participated in the Menorah Lighting ceremony, turning the first light on. Chief Ricciardelli said his department received numerous calls on the day of the anti-Semitic incident.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had anything similar since then” Chief Ricciardelli said.
After the ceremony, those who attended enjoyed coffee, apple cider and pastries at a table set up along the sidewalk to the Town Hall entrance.