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Monday, December 6, 2010

Town Menorah Lighting Warms Hearts, Unites Community

Town Menorah Lighting Warms Hearts, Unites Community
(Appeared on 12/5)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Though the temperatures with the wind chill hovered around 25 degrees, dozens of Fairfielders braved the elements to join each other in celebrating a Hannukah tradition.

Hosted by Temple Chabad of Fairfield, the Town Menorah Lighting was held late Sunday afternoon Dec. 5 on Sherman Green, centered around the gazebo.

The menorah itself was a nine-foot tall structure topped with nine glass globed oil lamps and, while its lighting was the main reason for the event, there were many more activities to be enjoyed.

Providing rides on the half hour was John Allegra and Mark Dumond of Allegra Farms of East Haddam, which supplied a team of horses pulling a covered wagon. The wagon had been decorated with reflective dreidels and a large sign with a holiday wish.

Among its first passengers were Fairfielders Sara Victor and son Max, 8. They felt it especially key to be on hand this year. “In light of what happened last year, we thought it was important to come out and support Chabad, while getting a ride and having some fun.”

Victor referred to an incident at last year’s Menorah Lighting in which three suspected white supremacists donned offensive garb and openly and loudly protested the event. As a precautionary measure, this year Fairfield police officers in patrol cars were positioned around the perimeter of the Green.

Happily, it appeared there were only joyful expressions and a positive spirit this day, which, in event coordinator Rabbi Shlame Landa’s opinion, only proved “that light will prevail over darkness, and good over evil.”

“Happy Hannukkah” proclaimed a banner, positioned beneath a Christmas wreath, hanging at the top of the front face of the gazebo. At the bottom of the steps, a table displayed copies of Chanukah Magazine, mini menorahs and jarmulkas. Within the gazebo itself, food stations had been set up, offering latkes, potato pancakes, apple sauce, doughnuts and “gelt” (chocolate coins). Igor and Rayhan Pasternak, a local keyboardist and violinist respectively, were also on hand to perform traditional Jewish songs.

Landa explained that the latkes and doughnuts had been fried in oil and commemorated the miracle of the oil that fueled the Menorah during the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the triumph of the Maccabees in ancient times. According to lore, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame of the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, the flame continued to burn for the eight days needed to press, prepare and consecrate a supply of new oil.

As “Hava Nagila” played, Alan Gorenstein and son Zachary, 10, danced the Hora. They were happy to brave the cold to mark the occasion.

Nearby, Olivia Petshaft, 13, milling about with brothers Gabriel, 7, and Alex, 12, said, “I wanted to see the lighting and have fun. We’re going to jump around and dance to stay warm!”

Howard Meyers and son Will, 5, stood by bopping to the music. Meyers commented, “This is really all about religious freedom and tolerance. I hope that everyone comes out to join us.”

Another group, with both young and old members, danced around in a circle to “Dreidel Dreidel”.

Joseph Macy, co-owner of the Fairfield Inn and a Chabad Congregationalist, as well as an event underwriter, took his role here more somberly. “I’m a Holocaust survivor. It’s very important that we show solidarity with the Jewish state of Israel and that America supports all religions,” he said.

Macy accompanied Landa in the lighting of the candles, an occasion that Landa said had really been in the planning since last year. About the symbolism of the lighting, Landa said, “Each night a candle is lit is meant to convey the message that individuals must constantly grow in goodness and never be satisfied with past accomplishments.”

Landa added that the center candle, which stands higher than the others, represents the selfless leader that cares for the community. For him, Joe Macy was such an individual, explaining his place of honor at the lighting.

At the conclusion of Landa’s remarks, the rabbi said, “And now what you’ve all been waiting for… latkes and doughnuts!” It set the crowd below in motion, moving en masse up the steps to the food stations to have at the fried treats.