More than 40 people, from Chester and surrounding areas, attended the Menorah lighting and celebration at Gazebo Park in Chester Borough, Wed., Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m., which was the first night of Hanukka. In anticipation that participation could be less than in previous years since many travel out of town for family Thanksgiving gatherings, the rabbi kept his event plans simpler this year.
Overall, he was “happy with the turnout” and for those who “braved the weather,” says Rabbi Yaacov Shusterman of the Chabad Jewish Center of Northwest New Jersey.
Chester Borough Mayor Bob Davis attended along with some council members. Davis also attempted to light the Shamash or middle candle on the menorah, but with the wind, the rabbi assisted. Shusterman provides his own electric menorah for display at the Gazebo Park for the celebration and holiday season.
Thanks to the boy scouts, the rabbi and celebrators were allowed to use the club house on the Gazebo Park premises to continue the Hanukka event indoors. Activities included Jewish traditional foods such as latkes, donuts and chocolate coins; a game show for the kids, arts and crafts and Hanukka music.
Because of the lunar calendar and this Jewish year being a leap year, Hanukka fell super early this year, explains Shusterman, almost a whole month early.
“It has not been this early in 100 years,” says Shusterman.
Because Passover has to always fall in the spring, the “lunar calendar needs to be connected,” he says. If it was not connected, “Pesach would be in the winter one year. To prevent that, “every three years we add a whole Hebrew month.” With the leap year this year, “we lost 33 days.”
Next year, everything will fall back into place and Hanukka will once again be at the end of December.
With Hanukka falling at the same time as Thanksgiving this year, some called it “Thanksgivingka” or “Hanukkagiving.” The irony is that Hanukka and Thanksgiving do correlate with each other.
“Hanukka is about Thanksgiving,” says Shusterman. The theme of Hanukka is a “thanksgiving to God for preserving our temple and the miracle of Israel,” says Shusterman. The American Thanksgiving is “for our freedom and our country.”
One holiday did not take away from the other this year.
“It’s very connected,” says Shusterman. “It’s not at all a contradiction.”
At the hour-long community-wide celebration, Shusterman spoke about that connection of the two holidays, about being “thankful for our freedom and our country,” in both Israel and the U.S.
“I spoke about the thankfulness of the Jews getting their freedom and the pilgrims the same thing,” says Shusterman. Everyone “needs to be thankful and appreciate it.”
The Chabad of Northwest NJ aims to building a strong united Jewish presence in areas such as Mt. Olive, Washington Twp. and Warren County and to enrich the quality of Jewish life through education, spiritual, cultural and social needs of all Jews in the area.
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