December 7, 2023, Chappaqua, NY–Deeply felt hopes and wishes for a miracle for the release of all the hostages along with experiencing the joy and meaning of Chanukah itself were among an array of poignant messages expressed by both organizers but also by attendees at a festive and meaningful Chabad Menorah lighting celebration attended by several hundred at the Senter Street Community House.
The lighting followed a host of fun and traditional activities and songs both area families and visitors enjoyed plus remarks from Chabad’s Rabbi Butman and New Castle Town Supervisor Lisa Katz.
“This Chanukah, we take a moment to join public menorah lightings around the world to pray that those who are being held hostage be returned home to their families,” said Rabbi Butman in his remarks, “so that they can celebrate and light the Chanukah menorah in freedom.”
“Be the light and bring joy and happiness,” said Town Supervisor Lisa Katz. “Certainly, let’s use this time to remember all the hostages who are still not released and to pray for their release and for the end of Hamas, for the end of war, and to make sure that all innocent lives are protected. Most importantly, let’s feel community and love each other.”
The community event opened with creative and engaging activities indoors by ‘The Mad Science Show’, and outdoors by ‘The Amazing Andy’, who transfixed the crowd with his fire juggling and balancing acts. The children’s program was organized by Esther Butman, director of Chabad education, working closely with Chappaqua’s Faina Preston. The children were also treated to donut (“sugnaniot”) decorating and assorted coloring and crafts activities. Following the remarks and lighting, Rabbi Butman led the crowd in traditional Chanukah songs.
This reporter, who is Jewish, took time to enjoy the festivities, and prior to the lighting asked residents gathered why they were attending and how they think a Chanukah celebration held special meaning this year. Betty Jabloner, was straightforward: “I’m Jewish. And I’m here to support the town!” She was attending with her friend Vicki Bergstrom, a long time proprietor of Lange’s Deli in Chappaqua. Said Bergstrom: “Given everything about how our Jewish friends feel, I feel I can’t just sit in my house.”
Stacey Blaustein Divack stated: “We are really bonded together as one people and we are hopeful that there will be a miracle. We are hopeful that the Jewish religion and Israel will continue to thrive, that we have peace and Shalom with everyone in the world, and that we learn to respect one another and live together.”
Maud Bailey offered: “My heart is filled with hopes and prayers for peace. What has happened is very sad! But this feels like a very joyful moment…”
And, from Kristin Lore: “This Chanukah, it’s about looking for that miracle again and looking for that light in the darkness that we are feeling. She paused, recollecting an accompanying worry. “When I have to think about whether it’s even safe to come to my small town lighting of the menorah, it’s pretty sad… and heartbreaking.”
Despite any sadness and worry expressed, the mood was ultimately joyous.
As Katz noted in her remarks: “It was wonderful to go inside and see kids happily decorating the donuts, and playing with science. So even when I’m no longer your supervisor, I hope you will always come out to celebrate your community and never forget to be the light.”
Rabbi Butman also emphasized that the celebration offered an opportunity to educate during these difficult times. “Chanukah is a derivative of the word ‘Chinuch,’ which means education– it’s a time to explore and understand education principles. There must be moral clarity, an appreciation that every single human being, that any student in any school or on a college campus, that every citizen in this great country, has the right to walk in freedom without fear, and that every parent has the right to sit home and not worry about the well-being of their child…. Education represents moral clarity and a sense of safety and security for all of us.”
Rabbi Butman concluded his remarks and expressed his gratitude to all who attended with this: “For over 2000 years, he said, “we’ve contributed to the world with goodness and kindness and will continue to do so, with pride, with embracing our identity, with joy, with celebration, and certainly there is no greater answer to antisemitism than Jewish people coming out celebrating Chanukah with pride and without fear.”