On Sunday, December 29, the Westchester community joined together for the eighth night of Chanukah to light the menorah at Tibbits Park in White Plains. This previously scheduled event happened to occur after a string of anti-Semitic attacks across the New York area during Chanukah, and the day following a machete attack at a Chanukah celebration in a neighboring Rockland County synagogue. Organizers were pleased that the invited Westchester Jewish community was joined by the broader Westchester community, in a public show of unity and support in the face of hate.
Despite the cold, rainy weather, over 100 people and dignitaries were in attendance, as well as numerous police officers and firefighters, ensuring that the those attending the widely publicized event were safe.
Rabbi Avrohom Butman of the Chabad of Westchester explained how “light always triumphs over darkness. No matter how much darkness we may see around us, we must always remember that just a small candle dispels much darkness.”
“This is the third year this public event has been done with the city of White Plains,” explained White Plains City Councilmen Justin Brasch. “It is run by Chabad at Tibbits Park, where they put up a big menorah, and we all light together.”
Brasch continued, “The spirit was very positive. It was designed to talk about the light of the Chanukah candles even in these dark and terrible times. Due to the family-filled crowd, everyone stressed it was a time of joy and light, bringing light into the darkness and Jewish survival. It was a really beautiful event. We are happy to bring the light and joy of Chanukah to White Plains.”
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who lit the shamash, stressed that we are not alone and offered words of care and support for the Westchester Jewish community. “During this terrible time, the Jewish community is not alone. At all levels of government, county, city, state and federal offices will be supporting the Jewish community.”
Among the other elected officials who attended were White Plains Police Commissioner David Chong; White Plains Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Wayne Bass, who helped coordinate the event; White Plains City Council member John Kirkpatrick; White Plains City Council President John Martin; White Plains Youth Bureau Director Frank Williams; Westchester County legislator Catherine Parker; White Plains City Council members-elect Vicky Presser and Jen Puga; State Senator Shelley Mayer; and Randy Stein of the White Plains school board. Also in attendance was Rabbi Chaim Marder of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains, who helped publicize the event. Joining them were several religious leaders from local churches who came to show their support for the Jewish community.
“Pirsumei nisa is about spreading the ‘Nes,’[ok?] the miracle that is the Chanukah story,” said Rabbi Butman. “Beyond the miraculous survival of the Jewish people throughout history, each of us can make miracles every day. That’s what the menorah lighting symbolizes. By lighting even one candle in the night, doing one mitzvah or helping one person, we can truly create our own miracles today.”
Rabbi Butman summarized, “In times where darkness seems to have the upper hand, it was truly heartening to see the whole community come together in a ceremony that reminds us that light will always triumph over darkness.”
By Judy Berger