NORWALK, Conn. -- The greater Norwalk community celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with the lighting of an 18-foot menorah at Stew Leonard's on Tuesday night.
Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht of Beth Israel of Westport/Norwalk led the ceremony, which is now in its 22nd year at Stew Leonard's. Despite a sprinkling of rain, the gathered crowd rejoiced in the beginning of the festival of lights with dancing, holiday songs and latkes. Hecht also distributed dreidels and chocolates to everybody who gathered to help spread the holiday joy.
"Hanukkah is about bringing light into the community," Hecht said. In the same way that observers increase the number of candles they light every night for the eight nights of Hanukkah, so should people increase the kindness and generosity they extend to others, he said.
Members of the Leonard family joined in the celebration, including Stew Leonard Sr., his wife, Marianne, and Stew Jr. Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik aided Hecht and Stew Jr. in lighting the candles in a smaller menorah. Hecht also presented Marianne Leonard with a gift of a small menorah sculpture.
Hecht led the crowd in a prayer as he, Kulhawik and Leonard lit the servant candle and the Hanukkah candle on the small menorah.
"Let's hope and pray that peace will come to this world, that the light of Hanukkah will inspire us to become who we really are," Hecht said. "And that is: loving people, good people, accepting people, tolerant people, holy people, generous people, and people that realize that this country is blessed because of our beliefs, this country is blessed because of our heritage, this country is blessed because of our holiday and this time of Hanukkah."
"And may the light of Hanukkah bring warmth and inspiration to me and to you and to all of us, so that next year at Hanukkah, we will see these candles being lit in the courtyard of the rebuilt Third Temple in Jerusalem, the holy city."
After the ceremony people continued to sing along and dance to songs including "The Dreidel Song" and delight in the holiday, which will last until Wednesday, Dec. 24.
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