WALLINGFORD — Thursday night marked the first night of Chanukah, drawing quite the turnout as Chabad of Wallingford held its annual public menorah lighting by the Johanna Manfreda Fishbein Park gazebo.
Rabbi Baruch Kaplan lit the first candle on the menorah, using the shamash, which is the menorah’s “helper” candle and is used to light the other candles.
Kaplan said that the Chabad of Wallingford has been holding this public menorah lighting on the green for nearly 20 years.
“The objective is to be able to share the celebration, the joy of Chanukah, our holiday with everyone all around us,” Kaplan said. “The way to celebrate Chanukah is by lighting the menorah. We want to share the miracle with others and are excited to share something good and special with the community.”Celebratory food, crafts
Members of the crowd gathered together around the menorah with hot chocolate, jelly doughnuts, and chocolate-glazed doughnuts. Kids were able to do craft projects.
This was the second year that Kaplan used a nine-foot LED menorah.
Each person in the crowd was given their own Chanukah candle that was lit before Kaplan led with a prayer in Hebrew.
Kaplan said he was pleased with the turnout.
There are many traditions that take place for Chanukah. Kaplan said that hundreds of years ago, children would come home early from school, and parents would give them small gifts every day.
Today, children are given chocolate gold coins and presents from their families.
“In my family, we give little gifts of money, and the children go out and buy their gifts,” Kaplan said.
According to Kaplan, traditions for Chanukah include jelly doughnuts, also called Sufganiyot, and other fried foods like potato pancakes that are dipped in apple sauce.
“Wallingford is a really special community, and when you walk into the streets, you feel a sense of community here,” Kaplan said.Joining friends, appreciating moment
For Beth Bielesz and her family, this was their first time attending the menorah lighting.
“My son’s girlfriend is Jewish, and she is in college here and doesn’t live in the area,” Bielesz said. “I thought it would be nice to bring her here.”
With the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and rising anti-Semitic incidents, the menorah lighting was significant.
“We attended this lighting when they first started it,” said Jere Sirkis, of Wallingford. “We haven’t been here in a few years, but felt it was especially important to attend considering everything that has been going on in the world.”
Sirkis said she wanted to show her support and make sure other people knew about the event. Her friend Jennifer Nuzzo, of DiversaFit, met her at the lighting, and she hung out with a group of friends.
Janice Barsalou, a Wallingford resident, was happy with the turnout at the lighting. Barsalou originally posted on Facebook, showing her support for the holiday, and said she wanted to see the community attend the event.
“This is a wonderful community with great people, and I want you to block out the loud noises and listen to the hearts. Because when you do, you will find there are tens of thousands of people standing with us, and we’re very lucky to be living here in America and in a great and wonderful country,” Kaplan said after the menorah was lit.What is Chanukah?
Chanukah, also called Hanukkah, is an eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with nightly menorah lightings, special prayers and fried foods. The Hebrew word for Chanukah also means “dedication,” according to chabad.org. It is named that because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple.
Each year, the holiday begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and the 25th word in the Torah is “Ohr,” or light. The Hebrew word “Ohr” is mentioned 36 times in the Torah.