JACKSON – The Jewish holiday of Hanukah was observed in the township with joy and celebration through two public events in early December.
The first was held at the Chabad of Jackson on Dec. 2 where a 9-foot Hanukkah menorah erected at The White Butterfly was lit on the first night of the eight-day holiday.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom.
They also desecrated and defiled the Temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service. Upon recapturing the Temple only one jar of undefiled oil was found, enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight.
In commemoration Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabra known as a menorah. Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness. Additional information about Hanukkah is available at chabadofjackson.com/Hanukkah.
This ceremony was organized in partnership with The White Butterfly, and featured a menorah covered with scarves, mittens and socks. Following the menorah lighting ceremony, the winter gear was donated to the needy. The event included a fire show, arts and crafts for children and jelly doughnuts.
“The menorah serves as a symbol of Jackson’s dedication to preserve and encourage the right and liberty of all its citizens to worship God freely, openly, and with pride. It also serves to benefit the needy in our own community,” Rabbi Shmuel Naparstek said prior to the event.
“The message of Hanukkah is the message of light,” Rabbi Naparstek said. “The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”
Jackson’s menorah is one of more than 15,000 large public menorahs sponsored by Chabad in more than 100 countries around the world, including in front of landmarks such as the White House, the Eiffel Tower, and the Kremlin helping children and adults of all walks of life discover and enjoy the holiday message
The second observance of Hanukkah included a Menorah lighting in front of the township municipal complex on the night of Dec. 5. Linda Selznick, the chief coordinator of the event, said that more than 200 people came to the annual celebration. The gathering included residents and guests of the Jewish faith, Christians and speakers from Howell and Lakewood.
The 13th annual observance noted the fourth night of Hanukkah and began with refreshments provided by the event’s sponsors, the Women of Bat Shalom Hadassah, the Westlake Yiddish Cultural Club, Yiddish Heritage Club of Winding Ways, Shalom Club of Metedeconk Lakes and the Yiddish Heritage Shalom Club of South Knolls.
Mayor Michael Reina and Council President Kenneth Bressi were among those present for the ceremony along with 12th District Assemblymen Ronald S. Dancer.
Reina commended Selznick and those involved in organizing the annual event. Selznick welcomed all assembled, and read a certificate of thanks to the mayor and the Township Council, for their permission and assistance with the Menorah Lighting.
“Hanukkah reminds us of the universal message of freedom from tyranny and the timeless belief that miracles are possible,” Selznick said.
Rabbi Emeritus Michael Klein, from the congregation of Ahawat Olam, Howell, spoke about the meaning of Hanukkah, describing the miracle of the Temple Menorah, when the one remaining flask of oil miraculously lasted eight nights. Candles are lit each night of Hanukkah to commemorate this miracle.
Klein explained the meaning of the holiday saying, “we need light to give us hope. You need light in your soul and light in your heart. Pass that light on to the next person.”
The Carl W. Goetz Middle School Honors Choir, led by Marge Eisenschmeid, shared the spirit of the holiday with all of us through their beautifully presented songs in Hebrew and Yiddish. They were honored by officials and board members of the Jackson schools.
Drew Staffenberg, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Ocean County said “in lighting the Hanukkah Menorah, I hope that the lights of each candle will challenge each of us to work together for peace and freedom for all.”
The group assembled on the museum lawn for the Menorah Lighting, officially conducted by Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Executive Director of the Chabad of Central and South N.J. He stated that “we must bring more light, warmth and love to the world.”
Rabbi Carlebach chanted the blessings over the candles. Representatives of Bat Shalom Hadassah: Ellen Keller, Bernice Pelman, and Roberta Ellen, of the Yiddish Clubs of Westlake: Jeff Brown, Alan Barnet, Alan Tannenhaus, and Joe Salz, Winding Ways: Susan Baron, Metedeconk Lakes: Myra Goldberg, and South Knolls: Millicent Gottesman, and Jewish community and spiritual leaders were invited to light one of the four candles, The Rabbi proclaimed: “This ancient miracle has lifted all of us, throughout the ages, out of the world of darkness, to ever increasing light and holiness.”
Rabbi Carlebach concluded by leading the group in the singing of Maoz Tzur, (Rock of Ages), which Selznick said was “a song praising God for our survival, despite the tragedies of persecution in Jewish history.”
Jackson students performed several festive Hanukkah songs during the evening program.
“Thank you. You did the community proud,” Selznick said thanking the student choir, the mayor and council and the township staff who made the event possible.
The crowd then moved outside from the town hall chambers to the lawn near the Jackson Museum where the four candles of the Menorah were lit.