LtE: A Thank you for the First Annual Reading Menorah Lighting

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Dear Editor,

Although many weeks have passed since the First Annual Menorah Lighting on Reading Town Common, I can’t stop seeing the faces that surrounded me:  young children who stood in front of the menorah, cheeks pink with the cold, looking so proud as they sang the blessings in Hebrew in public, embraced and surrounded by their Reading Community; senior family members who told me how wonderful it felt to feel acknowledged for the first time by a community where they reside; neighbors who relished the progress in town since their own children were taunted for being Jewish here; and fellow residents who lauded the opportunity for their children and themselves to support and learn about their Jewish friends and neighbors. I, for one, exhaled in relief and felt the love and support of the over 300 people in attendance.  I also overflowed with so much gratitude for so many people who had reached out to me over the difficult month that preceded this event in Reading. 

1st Annual Town of Reading Town Common Menorah Lighting – Photo by Kenan Cooper

So many thanks are emanating out of my heart!  Thank you to our partners who supported the idea of the Menorah Lighting: The Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce; The Reading Rotary Club; The Coalition of Us (Cato); Whitelam Books; the Reading Clergy Association and the Chabad of the North Shore.  Thank you also to the volunteers who stepped up to help. You are too numerous to mention individually, but each of you and our partners are appreciated for enabling this event to happen.  Without each of you, this event could not have been possible. 

An extra special thank you goes to Rev. Jamie Michaels of Old South United Methodist Church for her wisdom, insights, coordination, and poignant introduction to the event.  In addition, a huge thank you to Rev. Emelia Attridge of the First Congregational Church of Reading who not only offered their newly renovated hall for Israeli dancing after the event, but also showed their support with a sign in front of their church, an educational newsletter message, and along with their member Curt Nitzche, the ringing of their bell to resoundingly welcome us to their church.  

Many thanks to RMHS Graduate Tali Shorr for sharing her story, and to Anne Schwartz for being my sounding board throughout the planning, as well as leading the Israeli Dancing after the Menorah Lighting.  The light that comes from folk dancing is so powerful – holding hands, laughing at our mistakes, and having fun together! Thank you to all who joined us and to the docents of First Congregational Church for keeping the space available for us.

Thank you to Beth Mosier and the Reading Community Singers for blessing us with your beautiful voices and song of light while the glow of fresh snow began to fall. And to the volunteers of the Reading Food Pantry, thank you for enabling us to share the light of nutrition with those who are in need at this time.

Many thanks also to the Unitarian Universalist Church for printing our flyers; to Carolyn Whiting for purchasing our Town Common Sign; to Nancy Snow and David Owens along with Steve Weinstein of Freedom Gluten-Free Bakery, who made the gluten and allergen-free suf ganiyot (donuts) possible. To Liz Whitelam goes a special debt of gratitude for her constant outreach to ensure that this event was supported.  

To RCTV and the Reading Post, Angela Merrill, Phil Rushworth and their student volunteers: thank you for not only helping us to get the word out about the event, but also for capturing it on your web and YouTube pages with closed captions for all to see and hear, regardless of whether they could withstand the frigid temperatures and crowd.

Thank you also to Patrick Blais, David Maroney, and the Daily Times Chronicle for your publicity and ultimate coverage of the event. Because of all of you, the community embrace of this event was able to reach and include more people – of all faiths and practices.

To Fidel Maltez, our Town Manager, and the Select Board, thank you for using “government speech” to send out the message of Religious Freedom through the purchase of the Menorah, and thank you to Jean Delios for initiating this year’s proposal for a Menorah.  Thank you to our town legal counsel, Ivria Fried for researching the legal ramifications and helping to ensure that the menorah instilled a message of inclusion for all, while protecting our town from the hate that can so often manifest.  

Our expression of appreciation would not be complete without a shout-out to the Reading Police Department, and especially to Civil Rights Officer Lt Patrick Silva, along with Reading’s Department of Public Works and Town Manager.  Thank you all for working with us to enable this event to be safe, go smoothly, and communicate the message of inclusion.  

Thank you to all of the families and their friends who braved the cold to light the Common Menorah ‘Candles’ on each of the nights of Chanukah; and to the family who tried to light the menorah after the windstorm knocked out the lights – thank you for keeping the spirit lit.  

This event and the presence of the menorah on our town common has sent a powerful message underscoring how included the Jewish Community is in our town – thank you to all who made this possible!!! 

With Appreciation,

Linda Snow Dockser
Beaver Road, Reading

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