Lasting Community, Light and Hope through the Menorah Lighting

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Dear Editor:

Thank you so much for enabling us to get the word out about the Annual Community Menorah Lighting! It is hard to believe that 2024 has been launched and that the 2023 celebration is in our rearview mirror. It is clear, however, that the power of this year’s and last year’s events remain with so many of us as though it was yesterday.  

Former Town Manager with Organizer Anne Schwartz and Aaron Dockser – Photo by Barry Berman

Despite the torrential downpour this year, over 150 people attended. So many thanks to Rev. Emelia Attridge and her congregation at First Congregational Church of Reading for opening their doors to us again, enabling us to do crafts, to eat latkes, and to dance in a safe and dry space! Thank you also to former Town Manager Fidel Maltez for his efforts and honest open-minded guidance that enabled this event to happen in the first place. And a huge thank you to Reading’s Department of Public Works for accomplishing all that was necessary to enable the menorah to light up our Common while our dedicated Civil Rights Officer Lt. Patrick Silva and the Reading Police Department provided security and peace-of-mind both throughout the Menorah Lighting event and when families gathered to light the candles each night of the holiday.  

Rev. Emelia Attridge welcoming the Menorah Lighting to the shelter of the First Congregational Church of Reading – Photo by Barry Berman

As our new Director of the Office of Equity and Social Justice, Albert Pless stated in his opening remarks, “in the process of learning from each other, we build community.” He commented on the intersectionality and connection between the Black and Jewish Communities, heralding the power of this event through the work of Leonard Zakim who taught that ‘relationships count more than Institutions. It is because you know someone that you can start to care about their issues. Regardless of what holiday you are celebrating, these relationships inspire us to get to know our neighbors, and together we start to build strong communities.’ This Community Menorah Lighting Event is evidence of this. Many thanks to all who attended!

Reading Community Singers bringing light and harmonies to the First Congregational Church of Reading who provided shelter for the Menorah Lighting during the torrential rain storm – Photo by Barry Berman

Many thanks to the Reading Community Singers led by Beth Mosier who lit up our spirits with their beautiful harmonies; to Barry Berman for using his photographic mastery to capture poignant moments during the event; and to RCTV, Ben Goldlust and Blake Thomas for recording the Menorah Lighting so that it can be accessible to more people. Remember that you can turn on the closed captioning should you need help hearing what is being said! Tune in to the Menorah Lighting on RCTV at this link:   

Bonnie and Mayim Bovermanr enjoying the dancing after the Menorah Lighting! – Photo by Barry Berman

Because of the presence of a menorah on our Town Common and the ability to gather for this Community Menorah Lighting event, our community has received an enduring gift. This gift emanates from the support and endorsement of so many including: the Town Administrators, The Reading Rotary, Whitelam Books, The Coalition of Us (Cato), and the Reading Clergy Association. It also emanates from all who braved the elements to attend; the volunteers who have given so generously of their time, expertise, and resources; and Rabbi Idan Irelander of Congregation Ahavat Olam who took his time to lead us in this “celebration of light, inclusion and hope.”

We cannot close without also thanking the First Congregational Church of Reading for providing the delicious latkes, programs and flyers; Freedom Gluten-Free Bakery for enabling everyone to enjoy allergen-free donuts (sufganiyot); Honey Dew for discounting our hot chocolate; Reading Stop and Shop for the gift certificate which purchased chocolate gelt; Anne DiCiccio for updating the Sign for the Common; and Reading Cooperative Bank for donating water to quench our thirst.

For years, the menorah, a symbol of tolerance for all religions, was not allowed on our Town Common. But now it is! This reality and being allowed to educate and include others in a Chanukah Celebration means a lot to so many of us! Many thanks to Chabad for helping us launch our first Annual Menorah Lighting Celebration last year, and most of all, thank you to our Reading Community!!!

With much light, gratitude, and hope for the future,

Linda Snow Dockser, Anne Schwartz, Reverend Emelia Attridge, Carolyn Johnson, and Beth Mosier

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