For Denise Nevo, it’s important for her grandchildren to attend Halifax’s menorah lighting because it connects them more to their religion.
Nevo said her five-year-old grandson is the only Jewish person in his class and is influenced by Christmas celebrations. He’s told her he doesn’t want to be Jewish because he wants to celebrate Christmas.
“We wanted him to have pride in who we are and, so, by putting a big emphasis on Hanukkah it sort of counter-balances the influence of Christmas,” said Nevo.
About 100 people attended Monday’s menorah lighting ceremony at Grand Parade. Rabbi Mendel Feldman lit two candles on a menorah to celebrate the second day of Hanukkah. The menorah was about as tall as a house, so Feldman was lifted on a small crane to reach the candles.
Hanukkah started during the 2nd century BCE when a Jewish army forced their Greek rulers from Israel for trying to implement Greek religion on to them. The Jewish people had to purify their Second Temple in Jerusalem after the Greeks put their own idols in it. After that was completed, they only had a day’s supply of olive oil left to light the menorah. Miraculously, the light lasted for eight days until more oil arrived. Hanukkah is the celebration of the light miracle.
Feldman said the message of Hanukkah is to “reach out more,” no matter what a person accomplishes.
“In very simple terms, acts of goodness, acts of kindness, share your resources whatever it may be,” he said. “Bring it out to the world to make the world a better place.”
On Oct. 27, 11 people were killed in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Feldman said in the aftermath of an event like that, Hanukkah’s message becomes stronger.
“When there is something sad, something so tragic, it only intensifies the message of Hanukkah, that you can’t chase away darkness,” said Feldman. “The only way to fight against darkness is with light.”
Halifax resident Judy Pottier said Monday’s event was her first time at the menorah lighting.
“It was important for me this year; there has been a lot going on in the world with what happened in Pittsburgh a month ago,” she said. “It’s like solidarity and it was important to come.”
Many of the events that proceeded and took place after the lighting were directed towards children. They included a person in a dreidel costume, a fire performer and puzzles during a reception in city hall.
About 30 children attended the lighting.
Nevo thinks it is important to show her grandson he is a part of a community.
“In school they celebrate Christmas and he’s the only Jew in his class. Here he is with other children who also celebrate Hanukkah and celebrate Jewish holidays,” she said.
The remaining six candles on the Grand Parade menorah will be lit over the next six days of Hanukkah.