WESTPORT, Conn. -- The holidays may be about celebrating with friends and family, but The Schneerson Center for Jewish Life of Connecticut is spreading Hanukkah cheer throughout the community and celebrating with public Menorah lightings, including one in Westport.
“We want to increase in the joy each night we light an additional candle,” Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht of Beth Israel Synagogue said Wednesday night as music played in the background and children and families danced.
For the past 10 years, Hecht and Rabbi Levi Stone of the Schneerson Center have helped to light large menorahs in Westport, Weston and Wilton. Although the first night of the Jewish Festival of Lights was Wednesday, Dec. 16, Hecht said the Schneerson Center decided to wait until the second night so people could spend the first night of Hanukkah at home with their families.
“What we are trying to do is bring Hanukkah wall-to-wall, town-to-town,” Hecht added.
However, for Hecht and for those who joined in the menorah lighting Wednesday night, the message is not to spread their religion, but more to spread “the message of religious freedom.”
“Let’s not forget Hanukkah was a struggle for religious freedom,” said Hecht. “The first ever recorded struggle for religious freedom in history.”
Hecht believes this message is relevant to Americans today, as many struggle with finances, family and personal issues. But it is important to remember that “a little bit of light, can banish a lot of darkness,” he said.
Wednesday’s lighting took place at 400 Post Road in the parking lot of a Wells Fargo Bank, where food and refreshments were served. The first two lights on the menorah were light, and a DJ played traditional holiday music for all to join in.
The lightings will continue until the last evening of the Jewish holiday, on Tuesday, Dec. 23. Hecht says all are welcome, especially because for him it is important that those who live in Fairfield County take a moment to recognize how lucky they are.
“Fairfield County is blessed with a tremendous amount of talent, a good amount of success financially and so on,” Hecht said. “I would call upon every individual to use their talent, as best as they can to reach out to another individual and to help their community.”
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